Amazon Drones: The Future of Delivery

For the past five years Amazon has been diligently researching and developing it’s ambitious Prime Air plan. The plan, a 30-minute delivery service using drone technology may sound far fetched, but the reality may be a lot closer than you think. One stumbling block for the plan is a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stipulation that requires drones to be in the line of sight of the operator at all times. For this reason, Amazon is putting pressure on the FAA for a nationwide drone-based air traffic control system, which would allow autonomous drones using built-in technology and GPS to safely fly a pre-programmed route.

“The hardest challenge in making this happen is going to be demonstrating this to the standards of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) that this is a safe thing to do,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained to Charlie Rose in a 60-minute interview about the future of Prime Air.

A video, released back in 2013 (now with over 16 million views) revealed exactly how the delivery method would work. The process begins at the fulfillment center where a small yellow box automatically attaches to a Prime Air octocopter. It then flies off to the specified location. It has yet to be determined whether the drone will fly using GPS technology or guided by a controller.

Enter the CAA. Earlier this year Amazon partnered with the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority to explore beyond-the-line-of-sight operations in rural and suburban areas.

“The UK is a leader in enabling drone innovation — we’ve been investing in Prime Air research and development here for quite some time,” said Paul Misener, Amazon’s Vice President of Global Innovation Policy and Communications, in today’s announcement. “This announcement strengthens our partnership with the UK and brings Amazon closer to our goal of using drones to safely deliver parcels in 30 minutes to customers in the UK and elsewhere around the world.” It has also been disclosed that Amazon is testing its drones in the Netherlands and Canada.

Currently, Amazon is testing drones that weigh less than 55 pounds, are battery-powered, are capable of operating beyond the line of sight of 10 miles, can fly under 400 feet and travel at speeds over 50 mph. These devices are programmed to work with sensors and avoidance technology. As of yet, the drones are able to efficiently transport devices up to 4.5 pounds in 30-minutes or less.

Permission to test the delivery service in the U.K. has provided Amazon with a major step forward in what was currently deemed a grand publicity stunt. “We are committed to realise our mission for Prime Air,” said Daniel Buchmueller, the co-founder of Amazon’s drone program. The company continues to work with regulators and policymakers from all over the world in order to make Prime Air a reality to customers in the near future.