Amazon unveils video of its Prime Air delivery drones in action

Amazon unveils video of its Prime Air delivery drones in action

After initial tests with flying robots, online retail giant Amazon has launched a video showing the latest version of its self-piloted delivery drones at work (+ movie).

Prime Air delivery drones by Amazon

The film, presented by controversial TV personality Jeremy Clarkson, runs through the Prime Air drones' capabilities, and presents flight footage showing one of the vehicles collecting and delivering a parcel.

The retailer claims the service will be able to deliver packages weighing up to five pounds in 30 minutes using the small aeroplane-shaped drones, which can travel up to 15 miles.

Prime Air delivery drones by Amazon

The self-piloted vehicles will fly at altitudes lower than 400 feet, and will rely on "sense and avoid" technology to stay out of the way of other objects.

The drones appear to be an update on previous prototypes unveiled by Amazon, and feature a body that resembles a typical aeroplane, with three tail fins and a small propellor.

Prime Air delivery drones by Amazon

Front landing panels extend downwards for stability, and the vehicle is covered in orange, blue and white livery.

Video footage shows how the drone is loaded from underneath with a package, before it takes off vertically – as a helicopter would.

Prime Air delivery drones by Amazon

Before landing the vehicle sends a message to the recipient through the Amazon app, to let them know their delivery is nearby. It then scans the area for possible hazards and drops the package off.

However, although the film shows Prime Air drones in use, it is unclear when the service will be officially launched.

Prime Air delivery drones by Amazon

"We will not launch Prime Air until we are able to demonstrate safe operations," said Amazon.

"We will deploy when and where we have the regulatory support needed to safely realise our vision."

Prime Air delivery drones by Amazon

The retailer is currently testing over a dozen prototypes that are being developed in research labs in the US, the UK and Israel. Vehicles are being tailored for various environments and needs.

"One day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road," the retailer said.

Prime Air delivery drones by Amazon

Drones are rapidly gaining traction as unmanned delivery vehicles. Google published a video showing tests of its own drone service called Project Wing last year.

In September, British architecture firm Foster + Partners revealed its design for a drone port in Rwanda, which will be used to transport urgent medical supplies to remote parts of the East African country.

Graduate designer Alec Mormont has also invented a series of aerial vehicles that could deliver defibrillation equipment to patients suffering from heart attacks.

But the roll-out of flying delivery services is being held back by flight regulations in various countries. This has prompted the founders of online communications company Skype to create their own fleet of six-wheeled self-driving robots designed to deliver shopping to consumers' doorsteps.