Girl Scout cookies being delivering by Google Wing drones in Virginia

Girl Scout cookies delivered by drone? A Virginia troop teamed up with Google Wing amid COVID-19

Kelly Tyko
USA TODAY

In Christiansburg, Virginia, Girl Scout cookies are falling from the heavens.

Well, not exactly. They are being delivered not by young girls in uniform but by Google-developed Wing drones, a futuristic twist on how to get your fill of Thin Mints.

Wing, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc., reached out to the Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline about making cookie drops to help boost cookie sales, which are still being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even with loosening COVID restrictions, the traditional method of selling cookies outside of grocery stores or shops is difficult this year, and sales are down about 50% from prior years,” Lia Reich, Wing global communications lead, said in a statement to USA TODAY. “It was a natural fit to partner with the Girl Scouts to help out in this situation.”

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Cookies are currently available to order for drone delivery through the Wing app or website in Christiansburg until the end of May. Reich says Wing is committed to 3,000 boxes of cookies but if needed will deliver more. 

The annual start of cookie season is recognized nationally in January but timing and specific cookie availability can vary by region.

For decades, cookies have been sold at booths outside grocery and other stores, door-to-door in local neighborhoods, and through family and friends bringing order forms to work to tempt their co-workers.

In March 2020, the national organization suspended door-to-door sales and in-person cookie booths because of the spread of COVID-19 and took the 2020 cookie season online. The 2021 cookie season also has had online sales and sales through "virtual cookie booths" on social media.

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Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline Council CEO Nikki Williams said there have been challenges to selling cookies in traditional ways and the partnership with Wing has helped local troops in getting cookies delivered. While the girls don't fly the drones themselves, they help prepare the orders and learn about the technology.

"We're seeing a nice response as people are learning about it,” Williams said, adding that following national sale trends, Thin Mints are the most popular drone cookie order followed by Samoas, also known as Caramel deLites in some parts of the country.

Wing, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc., reached out to the Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline about making cookie drops to help boost cookie sales, which are still being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virginia Girl Scouts weren’t the only troops handling cookie sales differently. Some girls did contactless delivery for their neighbors, dropping off boxes on doorsteps. 

The Girl Scouts had a nationwide partnership with on-demand delivery service Grubhub, which ran from March 6 to April 11.

In New Jersey, troops hosted outdoor drive-by booth sales with contactless payment and one troop even got permission from an empty fast-food restaurant to sell cookies, NorthJersey.com, part of the USA TODAY Network, reported.

“The great thing about Girl Scouts is that we’re flexible and innovative,” said Betty Garger, president and CEO of Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey. “We had to be creative and flow with the times. Every business has had to adapt.”

Williams believes the program will grow and drones could one day be delivering more cookies.

“I expect that the future is going to have an opportunity for drones to be delivering to everyone across the country,” she said. “I think this is just a really great microcosm as what that can look like as we prep for the future.”

Wing drone deliveries

Wing was the first drone delivery company in the U.S. to receive an air operator's certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration in April 2019, which allowed the service to make drone deliveries in parts of Virginia.

Last week, Virginia Tech released a survey from Christiansburg – the site of Wing’s first U.S. drone delivery operations – where 87% of residents liked the idea of residential drone delivery after the first year of service in the community.

"We’ve seen incredible growth of the Wing service over the last year and a half. COVID gave people who may not have had a reason to try drone delivery a reason to, and we saw deliveries increase more than 500% in 2020," Reich told USA TODAY. "The convenience of drone delivery has not only sustained that growth but increased it, even as restrictions have lifted."

Girl Scouts Gracie Walker and Alice Goerlich help prepare orders with Wing for drone cookie deliveries in Christiansburg, Va.

Girl Scout Cookies sales

The Girl Scout Cookie Program is considered "the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world" and helps provide programming to 1.7 million girls, the national organization said.

Nationwide, cookies can be purchased on the Digital Cookie platform at www.girlscoutcookies.org where you can also find a list of troops selling near you. Supplies are limited and cookies may not be available everywhere.

If you're in Christiansburg go to Wing's website at www.wing.com/va to order for drone delivery.

Contributing: Rebecca King, NorthJersey.com

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko