A residential area consisting of 2,000 households in a suburb of the Australian city of Logan was without power for hours on Thursday after a delivery drone accidentally landed on a high-voltage power line and caught fire. The drone belonging to Google sister company Wing was on its way to a customer with a meal, but for an as-yet unknown reason, the aircraft made an emergency landing halfway along the route.
The incident took place on Thursday 29 September at 14:00 local time. A Wing delivery drone with a meal on board initiated a 'controlled precautionary landing' for a yet unknown reason. In the process, the aircraft accidentally landed on an 11 kV high-voltage power line.

Initially, the drone seemed to survive the incident without damage. But due to a short circuit, the aircraft caught fire after some time, according to local media. This led to a power cut, which lasted for 2,000 households for three quarters of an hour. 300 homes had to wait several hours longer due to further inspection of the grid. The high-voltage line did not appear to be otherwise damaged. Little remained of the drone other than a burnt-out carcass.
"This is the first time we have experienced this," a spokesman for energy company Energex told ABC News. "Maybe there was a malfunction. Or maybe there was human error."
Wing confirms the incident and says it is investigating what went wrong: "We can confirm that a Wing drone made a precautionary controlled landing yesterday in Browns Plains, Queensland, and came to a halt on an overhead power line. We immediately reported this to Energex. Two hours later, a power failure occurred in the area. We apologise for any inconvenience. We are currently evaluating the incident."
The incident raises numerous questions. Such as why the drone flew above a high-voltage line in the first place. Prior to every flight, a flight plan is automatically drawn up, avoiding flying over dangerous areas - such as high-voltage power lines - if all goes well.

A second question is why the onboard sensors did not ensure a last-minute evasive manoeuvre. Wing argues that the drones are equipped with multiple fault detection systems and sensors to ensure, among other things, that obstacles are avoided.

A third question is why there could not have been adequate intervention by a human operator. According to Wing, the automatically executed flights are monitored by operators who can take over the controls if the situation calls for it.
Just this time last year, Wing proclaimed the town of Logan the 'drone delivery capital of the world'. Since 2019, the 110,000 residents of several suburbs have been using Wing's drone delivery service. By 2021, more than 50,000 orders were delivered by the drones, ranging from coffee to snacks and meals. Especially during coronalockdowns, drone delivery proved to be a popular delivery method.

But this is not the first time Wing has been plagued by setbacks. For instance, delivery drones in the Australian capital Canberra had to be grounded for several months during the breeding season after the planes were attacked by ravens.

Noise pollution also remains a recurring issue. Just recently, Current Affair reported on complaints from residents who are regularly disturbed by the howling noise the drones make. "A drone like that sounds like a swarm of angry mosquitoes. It drives me crazy," says one of the residents in the report below.

Source: Dronewatch