Amazon is moving forward with its drone delivery concept Prime Air. Announced by the company on December 14, two customers in the United Kingdom can use the service while it’s in beta. Dozens possibly hundreds of more customers could join in on the program in the coming months.
In its first ever drone delivery on December 7, 2016, Amazon shipped a Fire TV and a bag of popcorn to a Cambridge-based customer, using a custom-built and autonomous drone to complete the delivery in 13 minutes.
The delivery process goes as such: moments after a customer’s order, a fulfillment center loads the Prime Air drone with the goods. The drone is sent down an automated track to take off outdoors. The drones are autonomous from take off to landing and fly below 400 feet. Guided by GPS, the drone zips towards the customer’s flat to hover, lower, and drop the package. To keep things safe, Amazon has so far implemented a QR code method of guiding the drone outside the customer’s house; it’ll locate the code and land accordingly.
As of now, Amazon will continue testing in the United Kingdom but hopes to expand its drone services to more customers within several miles of its facility. The drones are limited to a maximum payload of five pounds, but if regulations allow it, Amazon’s customizable drones might be able to delivery heavier packages. Nonetheless, there’s a load of staple products that weigh less than or equal to five pounds.
Last year’s demo showed off a fixed-wing quadcopter hybrid; it’s designed to travel further distances. This year’s model appears smaller but probably lacks in flight distance.
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