Amazon tests drones that could deliver
packages "in less than 30 minutes"


News: online retail giant Amazon has presented a prototype for a service that uses flying robots to deliver packages to customers within half an hour of ordering (+ movie).

The service would be called Amazon Prime Air and would be available to customers living within a ten mile radius of one of Amazon's distribution centres.

The unmanned aerial vehicles are called "octocopters" because they feature eight propellers and Amazon claims they could be implemented as soon as 2015.

A video released by Amazon shows a drone collecting a package inside a plastic container from a conveyor belt at a distribution centre before taking off and delivering it to the customer's doorstep. The flying robots would be directed by GPS to coordinates specified by the customer.

Amazon prime air prototype drone

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made the announcement yesterday on American investigative news programme 60 Minutes and explained that the technology is already in place, but that the legal issues surrounding such an operation are likely to delay its implementation.

"The hardest challenge in making this happen is going to be demonstrating to the standards of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) that this is a safe thing to do," Bezos told 60 Minutes.

"I don’t want anybody to think this is just around the corner. This is years of additional work from this point," he said, before stating that he hopes it could be made available to customers in four to five years.

Amazon prime air prototype drone

"We hope the FAA's rules will be in place as early as sometime in 2015," said Amazon on a webpage dedicated to the project. "We will be ready at that time. One day, Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today."

"The FAA is actively working on rules and an approach for unmanned aerial vehicles that will prioritise public safety," the company added. "Safety will be our top priority, and our vehicles will be built with multiple redundancies and designed to commercial aviation standards."

During a demonstration, Bezos pointed out that the unmanned vehicle can still fly if one of its rotors suffers a failure. "I know this looks like science fiction; it's not," he said.

Sydney startup Flirtey claimed to have launched "the world's first unmanned aerial vehicle delivery technology" earlier this year, using flying robots to deliver books directly to customers based on the location of their mobile phone.

  • Kris

    Best not fly over a golf range or a students house then.

  • I hope whoever ordered that book paid a HEFTY surcharge to have it delivered by drone. What a spectacularly energy-inefficient way of doing things.

    • JimmyD

      I imagine there is less energy used delivering this directly to your door ‘as the crow flies’ rather than putting it on a 50 ton articulated lorry, driving to a distribution centre where it’s loaded into another vehicle which will meander along a postal route before arriving at your door. That and 0% emissions seems like a pretty good deal from an environmental standpoint.

    • boooo!

      To have a flying robot from the future bring me a gift, you bet I would pay the hefty surcharge. It’s not efficient but it sure is cool.

    • Nick

      What exactly is inefficient here? Your commentary is spectacularly vague. Also, who ordered a book?

  • Damian

    Amazon drones look cool, but this article may shed some light on why we’re hearing about them again:

  • CeBe

    Good technology and a very wrong use of it. I don’t think this is the solution to the massive amount of deliveries.

  • bwd
  • Trurl Klapaucius

    They will be banned immediately after somebody uses one to deliver C4, some other explosive or if they use it to disperse nerve gas.

  • Winter

    Do you think at least drones will be allowed to establish unions?

  • DanLeno

    Imagine the level of chaos, visual and sound pollution once this stuff is commercialised. Another misuse of technology decaying our cities.

  • El Jiji

    Scaling the technology sure makes room for a lot of problems. You really need perfect technology in order to avoid the risk of these things just failing above our heads.

  • El Jiji

    I think they will subliminally organise a revolution and attack Jeff Bezos – in a sequel to Hichcock’s The Birds.

  • amsam

    That’s a great video.

  • Rae Claire

    Maybe for medication or such or to rural isolated folks. Otherwise should be banned, banned, banned. And probably will be.

  • Ross

    Requires A LOT of extra packaging with those yellow boxes.