Amazon is pushing forward with its plans for a drone delivery fleet.
Today it announced that it’s begun deliveries to two customers in the UK, and will be expanding that to dozens, possibly hundreds, in the coming months.
The service is restricted to small items for now, focusing on delivering packages up to five pounds in 30 minutes or less.
On December 7th, 2016, Prime Air delivered its first order - an Amazon Fire TV and bag of popcorn - using a highly automated drone.
According to a press release, it took 13 minutes from customer click to package delivery at a home near Cambridge, UK.
“We're excited about Prime Air, a delivery system from Amazon designed to safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles, also called drones. Prime Air has great potential to enhance the services we already provide to millions of customers by providing rapid parcel delivery that will also increase the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation system.”
Amazon is starting its trials in the UK, not the US, because regulators there have granted it several important permissions.
Amazon can operate these drones beyond line of sight in rural and suburban areas. And because the drones can sense and avoid obstacles, the UK is allowing flights where one person operates multiple highly automated drones.
For now the drones are delivering only to customers located in close proximity to a specialized warehouse.
Customers place a small QR code looking piece of signage on their lawn, which allows the drone to know precisely where it can safely land.
The drone Amazon is using for this trial looks very different from the unit Amazon showed off last year.
In that video, Amazon’s drone had rotors and fixed wings, and was quite large. Its new unit appears much smaller, and has no fixed-wing capabilities. This means it probably can’t travel as far, but it’s much less likely to damage anything in an accident.
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