Amazon testing drones for deliveries

 

Drone delivery - fact or fiction?

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Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, is testing unmanned drones to deliver goods to customers, chief executive Jeff Bezos has said.

The drones, called Octocopters, could deliver packages weighing up to 2.3kg to customers within 30 minutes of them placing the order, he said.

However, he added that it could take up to five years for the service to start.

The US Federal Aviation Administration is yet to approve the use of unmanned drones for civilian purposes.

"I know this looks like science fiction, but it's not," Mr Bezos told CBS television's 60 Minutes programme.

"We can do half-hour delivery... and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds (2.3kg), which covers 86% of the items that we deliver."

'Ready to enter'

Start Quote

From a technology point of view, we'll be ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place”

End Quote Amazon

The service will be called Prime Air and comes as Amazon is looking to improve its efficiency to boost growth.

Amazon also posted a video on its website showing a drone picking up a package from one of its warehouses and delivering it to the doorstep of a customer's house.

However, it still has to wait for permission from US regulators.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved the use of drones for police and government agencies, issuing about 1,400 permits over the past several years.

Civilian air space is expected to be opened up to all kinds of drones in the US by 2015 and in Europe by 2016.

Existing regulations are in place to minimise the risk of injury to people on the ground, said Dr Darren Ansell, an expert on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) from the University of Central Lancashire.

"The UAVs do not currently have the awareness of their environment to be able to avoid flying into people. To deliver goods to people's homes for example in residential areas, the UAVs must overfly densely populated towns and cities, something that today's regulations prevent.

"Other things to consider are security of the goods during the transit. With no one to guard them the aircraft and package could be captured and stolen," he said.

Amazon said: "from a technology point of view, we'll be ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place."

The FAA was "actively working on rules for unmanned aerial vehicles", the company said, adding that it hoped the green light would be given as early as 2015.

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

Zookal, an Australian textbook rental company, announced earlier this year that it would start using drones to make deliveries from 2015 if approved by Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Australian law allows the use of unmanned aircraft for commercial use.

 

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  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 852.

    Yes, I believe that this would be an effective means of parcel delivery... Eventually. Drones of this type can be easily flown and built, from as little as £100. A model aircraft can be classed as a drone. The law does not currently stop people from strapping a small GoPro camera to the front of a model aircraft, yet. Drones have many practical uses, but must be used in the correct way.

  • rate this
    +26

    Comment number 772.

    "Hello. Amazon? It's left my parcel on the roof again"

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 374.

    Delivery drivers have the post code for our lane, but they still have to ask for the house or drive slowly to read the house names.

    I'm fortunate that keeping my nose on the drive makes an easy landmark for real people to find our place. But how would the Amazon chopper manage it?

  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 360.

    Has anyone considered the energy consumption and secondly how damaging will thousands of drones be to the wildlife. And that is without going into the nosey-parker devices they will carry.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 342.

    What about people living in apartments with no direct access to street level. I'm reckoning this will be limited to people who live in suburban detached or terraced houses - can't see this making its way to inner city areas with the technology advancing well enough to avoid substantial damage to property or life.

 

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