The Wisecrack

News for nerds

The COVID-19 pandemic has closed schools and public libraries across the United States, but a librarian in Virginia has thought of a creative way to keep kids reading, free of charge. The solution? Drones will deliver books of their choice straight to their door.

Kelly Passek, a middle school librarian in Virginia’s Montgomery County School District, is an early adopter of a drone delivery service for household goods in her town of Christiansburg. Launched by a Google spinoff company called Wing, the pilot project has been delivering her meals and household products for some time.

It didn’t take long for Kelly to connect the dots, and see how this new technology could benefit the children in her district.

“I think kids are going to be just thrilled to learn that they are going to be the first in the world to receive a library book by drone,” Kelly told the Washington Post.

Commercial drone delivery has been on the horizon for a number of years, with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demonstrating a prototype in a 2013 ’60 Minutes’ interview. A few projects have launched around the world, including in 2016 when Domino’s started using drones to deliver pizzas in one New Zealand town.

Wing, which became the first drone delivery company to receive an Air operator’s certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration to allow it to operate as an airline in the US, has been delivering packages weighing up to 3 pounds in Virginia since 2019, and is also operating in Helsinki, Finland, and two Australian cities.

What’s exciting about the new Virginia project is that drones will be supporting a social good: spreading knowledge and increasing access to educational resources.

It’s easy to see how this could prove helpful in the future to citizens who live far away from a public library, even beyond the days of COVID-19 restrictions. Even for those who live close by, it will provide a nice convenience.

Keith Heyede, Wing’s head of Virginia operations, feels a special kinship with this mission. His mother is also a librarian. The company will start delivering books to students in the Montgomery County School District who live within the Christiansburg delivery area this week. The services will be made immediately available to about 600 students.

They’ll have plenty of time to enjoy their books, as they won’t be due back until school starts in the fall.

Meanwhile, Kelly hopes that the novelty of drone delivery will help get a few more kids excited about reading. “I’m hoping that we get our students that are already readers and students who are thinking it’s going to be really excellent to get books delivered by drone,” she said.