27 Dec Drones Take Amazon Prime to the Next Level
It’s the Future! Delivery Drones Now in Action
Ordering from amazon.com is far more convenient than going to a store. However, even with express shipping, it takes a day for the order to get to your home. That could change within a few years as Amazon rolls out its new Amazon Air Prime service. When it becomes available, flying drones will deliver packages under 5 pounds in under 30 minutes. There are obstacles for the company to make the service widely available in the US, but changes may be coming soon. Check out what Amazon says about it here: https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Prime-Air/b?ie=UTF8&node=8037720011
The very first drone delivery by Amazon
On December 7, 2016, history was made. Amazon made its first delivery with a drone near Cambridge, England. The parcel contained an Amazon Fire TV Stick and popcorn and the delivery only took 13 minutes! If this service was available to everyone, it would be a game-changer for online shopping.
Their drone delivery trial is just getting started, with only two customers signed up. Soon enough, there should be hundreds of customers in the Cambridge area having their Amazon orders delivered by drones.
How It Works
First, the customer places the order. At an order fulfillment center, the package is put together by an employee and the drone automatically loads it. The drone then flies (without a human controlling it) to a special landing pad that the drone recognizes and lands on. Then it releases the package.
The customer can monitor the time when the drone will arrive on a special countdown clock. If you aren’t going to be available to receive the package at the exact time it will be dropped off, you can click the “Just a minute” button and delay the delivery for a certain amount of time.
The drone is different from other drones. It can move both vertically like a helicopter because of its eight lift fans, and horizontally, like an airplane thanks to a pusher propeller. The propeller is what allows for its high speeds. It can travel at nearly 60 mph and its battery can sustain flight for 15 minutes, which means 7.5 minutes to the customer and 7.5 minutes back. It flies at an altitude of 400 feet and can avoid obstacles like buildings, birds and trees thanks to advanced cameras and sensors. The drones weigh about 55 pounds and can carry up to 5 pounds. The drone is quiet in flight, so as not to annoy anyone when there are large amounts of them flying around in the future.
Obstacles to Air Prime in the US
Right now, the Federal Aviation Administration has certain guidelines that restrict Amazon’s use of drones. In November, the FAA changed the rules for commercial operators of drones, eliminating the requirement for a pilot’s license. However, Amazon is still restricted from sending out drones at night and from sending them out of the line-of-sight of the drone’s monitoring technician, or ten miles at most.
Amazon is still discussing the Air Prime program with the FAA and the agency is planning to make changes to the regulations to accommodate. FAA administrator Michael Huerta announced in a press conference that new guidelines will most likely be in place by late spring.
Amazon Air in the UK and Europe
The UK is getting priority over the US with this service due to its more favorable regulations. Amazon’s Vice President of global innovation policy and communications said, “The UK is a leader in enabling drone innovation – we’ve been investing in Prime Air research and development here for quite some time.”
The UK Civil Aviation Authority is working directly with Amazon so the company can operate their drones outside of the line-of-sight of a pilot and have one pilot monitor several drones at once, which will be necessary for the service to be widespread. The UK will likely have Amazon Air Prime widely available years before US customers do.
Europe is being proactive about getting commercial drones in the air. The European Aviation Safety Agency proposed new rules in March of 2015 that would allow for drones to share their airspace with other vehicles. Amazon has proposed that there be a special zone in airspace for drones between 200 and 400 feet. This leaves 100 feet of airspace between the lower limit of 500 feet for civil aircraft, a buffer zone to prevent collisions.
Drone delivery will be a major part of future shopping. It will arrive much sooner in Europe; customers in the US will have to wait a few extra years. Someday not far from now, there will be many commercial drones flying overhead, so much so that we will take them for granted. Shopping will become massively more convenient.