Amazon promises delivery drones 'within months'

Amazon will begin making drone deliveries “in the coming months” as it unveiled its latest Prime Air technology at the Re:MARS conference in Las Vegas.

The new six-rotor hybrid aircraft is capable of vertical take-off and landing, as well as sustained forward flight, and uses a combination of data from visual, thermal and ultrasonic sensors to autonomously navigate.

It is also capable of transporting 2.3kg packages up to 15 miles, meeting the company’s ambitions of creating “fully electric drones that can fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes”.

During the presentation, plans were revealed to begin making deliveries over the next few months, although there were no more details on exactly where or when.

The BBC reported that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which gave Google permission to begin carrying out drone deliveries for the first time earlier this year, has given Amazon the same permissions.

Jeff Wilke consumer worldwide chief executive at Amazon, explained that some drones are autonomous, but not able to react to the unexpected, relying simply on communications systems for situational awareness.

“If our drone’s flight environment changes, or the drone‘s mission commands it to come into contact with an object that wasn’t there previously - it will refuse to do so - it is independently safe,” he stated.

“I’m sure that it will be a concern, although it might not be that different from the noise from a delivery truck arriving at your home,” Wilke continued, adding: “The only difference is that the drone might be closer to a person’s home if it’s landing in the garden.”

In the UK, Amazon completed its first commercial drone delivery at the end of 2016, delivering a package in Cambridge as part of its new Amazon Prime Air service.

At the end of last year, Google’s parent group Alphabet announced it would trial delivery drone technology in Helsinki this year. The 12-propeller drones are capable of delivering packages of up to 1.5kg for up to 6.2 miles.

Darin Archer, chief marketing officer of Elastic Path, commented that drones will gain momentum in retail due to their ability to help develop direct relationships with consumers.

“Imagine a world in which you're close to running out of your child’s favourite juice and would have the ability to ask Alexa to order more, prompting a drone to drop off a bottle of his preselected brand into a specially designed drop bag outside of his front door that locks after the package is delivered.

“Companies who get in on this trend early and enable simple commerce transactions from any location will be the ones who win this battle for the consumer's mind and wallet, whatever the delivery mechanism is.”

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