Yesterday, Amazon announced that they are starting a delivery by private drone trial in the UK. Currently, they’re only working with two customers who will now order by drone.
Amazon plans to expand the trial to a couple dozen over time, and eventually to hundreds of customers living within miles of their first Prime Air center in Cambridge.
December 7th was their first delivery. They didn’t fly far, but it is still a significant milestone for Prime Air. They load the drones at a Prime Air center and then roll out on rails before taking off. The entire flight and landing is autonomous, and the goal is to make sure all deliveries arrive within a half hour.
The first product the delivered by the drone was a bag of popcorn and an Amazon Fire TV, which only took 13 minutes from placing the order. The drones can carry packages weighing up to five pounds.
Amazon says their current drone customers can order during daylight hours any day of the week, but only if the weather is clear to fly.
Customers will have a small mat to roll out in their backyard for the drone to land.
The drone they are using for the trials differs from their previous ones. It’s more of a standard quadcopter design compared to the hybrid plane they showed last year.
Prime Air is testing their drones in many locations around the globe. Amazon also set up a laboratory in Austria recently where many scientists are working on computer vision-based technologies.
With under a handful of beta testers, this is clearly a small test at this time, but it shows how serious Amazon is taking this project.
However, we don’t expect to see a service similar anytime soon in the U.S. Amazon has permission in the UK to operate outside of line-of-sight flights. Their drones have to pass extensive safety tests to do this.
Also, there will be some time before Amazon expands this test outside of the rural environment. Urban deliveries via drone are much more complicated than flying to a large backyard in the country. This is a problem the company is currently working to solve.