Photo: Wing

This School District Is Delivering Library Books to Students Via Drone

Virginia News
by Eben Diskin Jun 15, 2020

COVID-19 has forced businesses and services around the country to get creative, especially when it comes to bringing products to customers who can no longer simply walk into a store. The Montgomery County Public School system in Virginia, for example, previously got creative with its school buses, using them to deliver daily meals and reading materials to students’ homes. And the school system hasn’t stopped innovating just because the school year is over. Since the school system is located in Christiansburg, which is also the home of Google’s drone delivery division, Wing, the school’s deliveries are now taking to the air.

Blacksburg Middle School librarian Kelly Passek petitioned Wing to send students library books via drone. Keith Heyde, Wing’s Virginia head of operations, was enthusiastic about the idea. “My mom’s a librarian, “ he told WDBJ7, “so reading has been very important for me personally. If we can provide a little bit of extra access during the summer and challenges during COVID-19, that’s a win.”

The delivery drones are a mix of airplanes and quadcopters, exceed speeds of 70 miles per hour, and lower deliveries down on a cable from above. Last week, the first round of 18 drone-delivered books went out.

Christiansburg residents are eligible for drone delivery if their home has a suitable “delivery zone” where the package can be safely lowered. Although the drones are autonomous and unmanned, they are overseen remotely by pilots.

Passek told WDBJ7, “Drone delivery is allowing us a way to keep contact with our students and to keep providing them with access to our library resources, which are so necessary for them. I am thrilled that so many students have taken advantage already and really hope that they can continue on all summer long requesting books by drone.”

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