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Here’s what we now know about Amazon’s secretive drone delivery program

Thousands of items on Amazon will be available for drone delivery.


Jeff Bezos shared a video Wednesday of a successful fulfilment of an Amazon order delivered via drone in the U.K.

It’s clear Amazon fully intends to move forward with drone delivery and will likely continue to collaborate with Trump’s FAA to craft new U.S. drone rules.

The new video revealed a few things we didn’t yet know about Amazon’s drone program, like a highly roboticized drone fulfillment center, as well as more details about the initial customer trials with Amazon Prime Air, Amazon’s drone delivery arm.

Here’s what we now know about what Amazon envisions for its drone service (from the little they’ve shared):

  • The company plans on using landing pads to help its drones touch down in the correct location.
  • The idea is to deliver packages within 30 minutes or less, which will make it much easier for the customer to know exactly where she will be when the drone arrives.
  • The drones are capable of flying two miles in 13 minutes — at least that’s what happened with its first test.
  • The aircraft are fully autonomous and don’t have a human controlling takeoff, flight or landing.
  • A technician can track the drones and has access to the aircraft’s camera feed, so Amazon’s drones have at least one camera attached.
  • The Prime Air drone service will have its own fulfillment centers that will be located near customer homes.
  • At the fulfillment center the drones are loaded from underneath by a robotic conveyor belt. Takeoff is also robotized. Drones leave the fulfillment center on an automated track before taking flight.
  • Thousands of items for sale on Amazon, ranging from food to personal electronics, will be available for drone delivery.
  • Amazon started its private trial with two customers in the Cambridge area of England on Dec. 7 but plans to expand to dozens more customers in the coming months.
  • Prime Air’s first two customers included at least one white man.

Since launching its Prime two-day delivery and Prime Now services, the company’s delivery costs have skyrocketed. According to Amazon’s latest quarterly report ending in September, its shipping costs are up 43 percent from the same time last year. Amazon spent $3.9 billion on shipping in its last quarter alone.

The online retail giant isn’t just looking to drones to help rein in supply chain spending. Amazon unveiled its new airplane program in August and purchased a fleet of delivery trucks last year.

This year, Amazon also patented a drone that’s small enough to perch on someone’s shoulder, as well as aerial recharging stations for drones and a method for a drone to hitch a ride on a ground delivery vehicle.

Watch the video Bezos shared of Prime Air’s first customer drone delivery.

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