Amazon has been talking about using drones to deliver packages for a couple of years, and yesterday it debuted a new hybrid drone in a new advert. That same advert also features Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson explaining how the company will get packages from its warehouses to a customer's front garden.
The hybrid drone looks a bit different from that first official image of a Prime Air drone (below). Instead of that fairly standard looking drone Amazon will be deploying an orange, white, and blue aircraft that takes off vertically and can fly up to 400 feet.
Clarkson notes that there’ll be a range of different drone types, to work in different environments, (presumably) carry heavier payloads, and to go further than the initial range of 10 or so miles.
The service appears to be simple: if you’re in range, you can order a product through the Amazon website or app. From there the order will go to a warehouse where it will be packaged up and loaded aboard a drone that will take off and fly to your address. The drone will alert you when the delivery is getting close so that you can position a drone target for it to land and deploy its package.
Amazon also highlights the drone’s ability to ‘sense and avoid’ obstacles, such as other flying vehicles and objects in one’s garden. Sadly Prime Air isn’t something that the company is going to roll out just yet since it still needs to figure out the regulatory environment. There’s been some movement on that front, and in the US the FAA is beginning to propose rules for drone operations.
That said, some of these requirements are a headache for the retailer. While Amazon has designed the drones to weigh less than 55 lbs/25 kilos, it will need to contend with other points, such as remaining close to operators and not operating over populated areas.
Progress in Prime Air does reinforce Amazon’s existing ecosystem, however. Presumably Amazon Prime subscribers (or some additional subset of Prime subscribers) will have access to the service, which will allow the company to bypass parts of the established delivery industry. The company also has Jeremy Clarkson shilling for the service, just months after announcing that they’ll be picking up his new car show.
Don’t get excited yet, though. This is a service that has a bunch of hurdles to go through before it’s viable, and even then, before it can be widely deployed across (and outside) mainland USA. But, it’s a sign that Amazon’s been taking the idea seriously, and it’s clear that it’s no longer a pipe dream.
By Andrew Liptak