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Amazon readies PrimeAir drone delivery

November 30, 2015 01:43 PM
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Amazon.com Inc. still must gain regulatory approval before its delivery drones can take flight, but that’s not stopping the e-retailer from stirring up interest from the sidelines.

Amazon on Sunday began showing off a new drone prototype on Amazon.com/primeair and a YouTube video reveals how the service might work if regulators clear Amazon’s drones for takeoff.

Amazon is designing several drone prototypes for different delivery environments, according to the video, which includes aerial footage of a new drone demonstrating how delivery may work in a “story from the not-too-distant future.”

The two-minute video, narrated by British TV host Jeremy Clarkson, says the drone can deliver goods weighing up to five pounds, rise 400 feet from the ground and travel up to 15 miles. The video, which displays “Actual flight footage. Not simulated” on screen, shows a mother selecting a drone delivery option at checkout, and then getting an alert when the order is poised to arrive, less than 30 minutes later. The drone descends toward a landing pad target emblazoned with an Amazon “A” placed by the shopper in her yard, hovers over the target and drops the package from about an inch above the ground.

As of midday Monday, the new video had approximately 1.9 million views.

Amazon, on its Prime Air page, says it will deploy drone delivery “when and where we have the regulatory support needed to safely realize our vision.” It is testing drones in multiple international locations, Amazon says, and has development centers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel.

In the United States the Federal Aviation Administration is slowly issuing rules about commercial drone activity and granting permission to run tests. In April it gave Amazon a waiver on rules it proposed in February that required drone operators keep the unmanned craft within sight at all times. The waiver allows Amazon to test drones flying up to 100 mph and as high as 400 feet off the ground. The e-retailer has expressed to the Senate subcommittee overseeing commerce and transportation its frustration at the FAA’s pace.

Amazon isn’t the only commercial entity trying to figure out how to use drones as delivery agents. Singapore Post Ltd. in October delivered a package containing a letter and T-shirt via a drone it developed with the Infocomm Development Authority. SingPost said at the time it was the first time any postal service has successfully used a drone for “point-to-point recipient-authenticated mail delivery.” Earlier this year Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. ran tests to deliver tea to consumers in Beijing via drone.

Amazon is the No. 1 e-retailer in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide.

 

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