Google’s Wing drones are dropping off books to students in Virginia who can’t go to the library because of the coronavirus

STEM

(CNN) — A librarian in Virginia concerned about students unable to check out books from the library found a way around coronavirus restrictions to keep kids reading: Book delivery via drone.

Middle school librarian Kelly Passek collaborated with drone service Wing from Google’s parent company Alphabet to use drones to deliver library books to students in Christiansburg’s Montgomery County Public School district.

The school district is now the first in the world to offer a library book drone delivery service, a Wing spokesperson confirmed to CNN.

“I’m always trying to come up with ways to get library resources into the hands of my students and thought this would be an excellant way to do that,” Passek told CNN.

“With quarantining and social distancing and our move to remote learning, it became even more important to find a way to get kids these reading materials while social distancing.”

The first book was delivered on Thursday. Just days after the service launched, Wing has dropped off more than 35 books to students in Christiansburg.

Public libraries in the town are currently closed because of the coronavirus, making Wing one of the only services available to provide more than 600 students in the area with books.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to help Montgomery County Public Schools use drone technology to continue meeting students’ needs during this extended out-of-school time,” Wing spokesperson Alexa Dennett told CNN.

“Wing has been serving the Christiansburg community since last year, and library deliveries — in addition to deliveries of over-the-counter medicines, meals and snacks — are another way locals can use drones to get the things they need.”

To order books, students visit their school’s website and fill out an online form. Students can choose from over 150,000 titles in the library’s catalog.

Passek then processes the requests, pulls the books off the shelf and brings them to Wing’s site. From there, Wing flies the books directly to students’ homes via drone.

Passek’s family was one of the first in the country to receive a residential drone delivery from Wing in 2019. After realizing how quickly her deliveries were made, Passek thought of how the service can be used to help students. The librarian pitched the idea to Wing who she said “were immediately on board.”

“Free choice reading, the reading that students choose for themselves, is so important to the success of our students, both academically and in life in general. If we can get library resources into their hands, we can help them stay on a path to success,” Passek added.

Along with Christiansburg, Wing flies in Australia and Helinsiki, Finland.

Wing partnered with Walgreens in 2019 to deliver food, beverages and health products within minutes in Christiansburg. The pilot marked the first time a major tech company has made drone deliveries to homes in the US.

The company said it selected the town because it’s worked closely with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation partnership at nearby Virginia Tech, which is part of an FAA program to ease drones into the skies safely.

In April 2019, Wing received a critical Federal Aviation Administration certification, allowing it to make commercial deliveries in the US.

The 10-pound Wing aircraft, which carries up to three pounds, is quieter than a car or truck. Packages are lowered from the drone to a person’s yard via a rope.

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