AMAZON is finally allowed to make real-world drone deliveries across the US.
The tech giant’s revolutionary Prime Air system has finally been given the go-ahead by the aviation watchdog.
It’s been nearly seven years since Amazon first unveiled Prime Air.
The firm promised deliveries by drone, slashing warehouse-to-door times to below 30 minutes.
But launching such a system is a legal minefield, and required extensive oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Now Amazon has finally received the all-clear to offer commercial drone deliveries.
It’s unlikely that Amazon will immediately start offering Prime Air deliveries widely across the US.
But the firm is now free to trial drone deliveries to real-world customers.
In the FAA’s ruling, it was noted that Amazon can “safely and efficiently deliver packages to customers”.
It also means that Amazon is allowed to carry packages beyond the line-of-sight of the drone operator – which is normally considered unsafe.
The Prime Air drone-based delivery system was first announced in December 2013, albeit in a testing phase.
Then last year, Amazon has redesigned the drone completely, and said it would be ready to start delivering packages in the next few months.
“We’re building fully electric drones that can fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds to customers in under 30 minutes,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO of Consumer Worldwide at Amazon, speaking at this week’s Amazon re:MARS keynote.
“And while five pounds might not sound like a lot, it represents between 75% and 90% of the packages that Amazon delivers to its customers today.”
In any case, Amazon is desperate to assure people that its drones will be safe.
“We’ve designed an automated drone management system to ensure that there are safe distances between our drones and other aircraft in the area,” Wilke explained.
“Second, we’ve built robust aircraft with sophisticated controls that are just as robust and stable and capable as commercial aircraft.
“Third…we’ve designed our aircraft to be safe on its own.”
The drones come fitted with visual, thermal and ultrasonic sensors – which work in unison to make sure no objects are missed.
For instance, Wilke points out that “fluffy dogs are invisible to sonar”, so other sensors will be required to spot a hairy hound.
“From paragliders to power lines, to the corgi in the backyard, the brain of the drone has safety covered,” he boasted.
Amazon’s Prime Air drone will also avoid landing near a customer if they’re too close to the drop-off point.
To prevent this from happening in the first place, customers will be notified when the drone is ready to land.
It’s not clear how fast the drone will travel, and if customers can expect to pay extra for a drone delivery.
Amazon has not revealed where initial Prime Air tests will begin.
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