Google's drones were part of its drone-delivery system Project Wing, under the Google Project X research lab. The goal was for these delivery drones to be capable of vertical take-off and landing. Such a feature would be useful in busy commercial and residential areas, but Google hasn't quite perfected it yet. The prototype used a single-winged design spanning five feet. Google announced at SXSW that it has actually scrapped the design completely, opening the door for new designs and engineering innovation. This, honestly, sounds like they put a positive spin on an expensive failure.
Combining the vertical take-off and landing approach of a rocket with wing-based flight seemed too tricky for Google's mechanical engineers. We're now learning that the design was plagued with flaws. The single-winged drone couldn't handle high winds. Whenever it changed altitude the cargo would dangerously shift, making the drone's flight path difficult to control.
Google created Project Wing in 2011 as a drone-delivery program that seemed to have unlimited applications. Google's test runs of the drones attempted to carry vaccines, water, and radios to farmers in the Australian outback. The project envisions drones delivery small cargo in a same-day delivery system.
Astro Teller, head of research at Google Project X, relayed that the half of the drone development team realized the design was a failure only eight months in to development. About 80% of the team was convinced the design was flawed after another 10 months. It looks like you'll have to wait for drone-delivered groceries a little longer now Google is back to the drawing board for Project Wing. Teller didn't give any details about their new design, only saying that they have moved away from a single-winged design.
Source: Wall Street Journal