It unveiled its latest iteration at a conference in Las Vegas, touting the machine's ability to spot obstacles such as people, dogs, and clotheslines. Amazon executive Jeff Wilkes aid the drone would be able to travel 15 miles to carry packages weighing 5lbs (2.3 kg) or less.
However, the US Federal Aviation Administration told the BBC it had granted Amazon a permit to operate the drone in the US. “The FAA issued a Special Airworthiness Certificate to Amazon Prime Air allowing the company to operate its MK27 unmanned aircraft for research and development and crew training in authorized flight areas,” the regulator said.
“ Amazon Prime Air plans to use the aircraft to establish a package delivery operation in the United States. In the past, Amazon has been accused of using the promise of drone delivery as a headline-grabber to push its publicity around its Prime membership service.
Figure captionWarning: Third party content may contain adverse firm insisted that it had built a drone with multiple redundancies for avoiding objects, even if it lost its connectivity. “Some drones are autonomous but not able to react to the unexpected, relying simply on communications systems for situational awareness,” Mr Wilkes aid.
The drone has six degrees of freedom (compared to four for a normal quadcopter), which Amazon says allows for more dynamic and nimble flight. The company accompanied the announcement of the new drone with a test flight video, showing how the craft transforms in midair.
Amazon claims its goal for the finished Prime Air service is created “fully electric drones that can fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes.” This may sound like a small payload, but Amazon says 75 to 90 percent of purchased items are under that weight limit. Wilde told the audience at Re:MARS: “You’re going to see it delivering packages to customers in a matter of months.” But the company has not yet selected a location for this early service.
“Our objective is to have a certified commercial program that will allow us to deliver to customers, and that’s what we’re working towards in the coming months,” Wilde told reporters a press briefing. It’s worth remembering that Amazon doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to meeting its deadlines in this area.
Google’s rival Project Wing, meanwhile, has slowly been expanding a number of test services in locations including Finland and Australia. If we’ve learned one thing about drone delivery in recent years, it’s that the implementation of these systems is much harder than simply building the aircraft.
Delivery speed has grown into a significant factor in purchasing decisions for consumers buying online. The need for speed discussion typically revolves around trains, trucks, boats, and planes.
While not the largest company entering the drone race, UPS gets the top spot on the list as the company's drone delivery program was first to receive Part 135 Standard certification with the more important Part 107 waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in October of this year. The two collectively serve as significant regulatory barriers to entry into the drone delivery market, open up the ability for unlimited scaling, and release governmental control over the types of flights a company can operate.
Amazon is limited to a single-pilot license and unable to fly outside the line of sight of the pilot or an observer. UPS, though, received the highest variant of the Part 135 certification with no cap on the number of pilots or level of expansion to which it can grow its drone airline.
In the company's most recent earnings call, it announced that, to date, 1,500 commercial flights have already been conducted. UPS has forged partnerships with the University of Utah, CVS, and Amerisource Bergen to look for new and innovative ways to profit from the technology.
While deliveries are currently only being utilized for healthcare needs, the company does have plans to expand its reach to transporting special commodities and other regulated goods. Once its drone technology is up to par, Wing will work closely with the FAA to gain the highest level of certification.
With over 70,000 test flights and 3,000 successful deliveries down under, the company received approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to being limited commercial operations. Currently, the company is delivering a fixed list of items from 16 different merchants in the town of Canberra and the closely surrounding areas.
Flash back to an episode of 60 Minutes in December 2013, and you'll hear Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveil his plan for drone delivery with an expected integration date of four or five years later. The latest news from the Amazon Prime Air camp was the unveiling of its newest drone design at the re:Mars Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada in June.
Amazon's Jeff Wilde shows off the latest version of the company's Prime Air delivery drone. Amazon executive Jeff Wilde announced at the company's re:MARS conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday that the drones will be able to fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes.
The FAA tells Forbes that it has given Amazon a one-year approval, eligible for renewal, for research and testing, though not for commercial deliveries. Beyond its flashy drone announcement, Amazon also debuted new warehouse robots and ways for Alexa to predict how users want to spend their Saturday nights.
Amazon's Brad Porter showed off the “Pegasus Drive Sortation” device, which can take packages from where human workers place them and autonomously sort them, zipping off to a specific area where they'll be sent off to a given destination. Screenshot / YouTube Amazon also gave a sneak-peek at Alexa Conversations, a deep learning-based way for developers to create voice skills with fewer lines of code and less training data.
For example, Amazon's Rohit Prasad showed off a demo in which a user asked Alexa to buy movie tickets. After purchasing the tickets through the Atom skill, Alexa then automatically prompted the user to make a restaurant reservation (through Operable) and order a ride (through Uber).
I’m a San Francisco-based staff writer for Forbes reporting on Google and the rest of the Alphabet universe, as well as artificial intelligence more broadly. Read More’m a San Francisco-based staff writer for Forbes reporting on Google and the rest of the Alphabet universe, as well as artificial intelligence more broadly.
Previously, I worked at CNBC.com and Business Insider, covering Google, Facebook, e-commerce, and Silicon Valley culture. The company even delivers to Prime customers on Sundays to cut down on unnecessary wait times.
Bezos says the GPS-controlled drones can carry up to 5 lbs in cargo, which covers more than 85 percent of Amazon's products, and are capable of delivering parcels as far as 10 miles. The FAA is expected to introduce its policy on unmanned aerial vehicles by 2015, and it looks like Amazon wants to be ready to move forward as soon as those rules are in place.
Speaking to ABC News, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that it will take a lot of work to convince the FAA. For the first time, Amazon today showed off its newest fully electric delivery drone at its first re:Mars conference in Las Vegas.
It’s an ingenious hexagonal hybrid design, though, that has very few moving parts and uses the shroud that protects its blades as its wings when it transitions from vertical, helicopter-like flight at takeoff to its airplane-like mode. These drones, Amazon says, will start making deliveries in the coming months, though it’s not yet clear where exactly that will happen.
Today’s announcement marks the first time Amazon is publicly talking about those visual, thermal and ultrasonic sensors, which it designed in-house, and how the drone’s autonomous flight systems maneuver it to its landing spot. Even when it’s not connected to a network and it encounters a new situation, it’ll be able to react appropriately and safely.
When you see it fly in airplane mode, it looks a little like a TIE fighter, where the core holds all the sensors and navigation technology, as well as the package. Ahead of today’s announcement, I sat down with Our Kimchi, Amazon ’s VP for its Prime Air program, to talk about the progress the company has made in recent years and what makes this new drone special.
“Our sense and avoid technology is what makes the drone independently safe,” he told me. Kimchi also stressed that Amazon designed virtually all the drone’s software and hardware stack in-house.
“We control the aircraft technologies from the raw materials to the hardware, to software, to the structures, to the factory to the supply chain and eventually to the delivery,” he said. The autopilot, which evaluates all the sensor data and which Amazon also developed in-house, gives the drone six degrees of freedom to maneuver to its destination.
“That combination of perception and algorithmic diversity is what we think makes our system uniquely safe,” said Kimchi. As the drone makes its way to the delivery location or back to the warehouse, all the sensors and algorithms always have to be in agreement.
What Kimchi stressed throughout our conversation is that Amazon ’s approach goes beyond redundancy, which is a pretty obvious concept in aviation and involves having multiple instances of the same hardware on board. Amazon isn’t quite ready to delve into all the details of what the actual on-board hardware looks like, though.
It’s the integration of all of those sensors, AI smarts and the actual design of the drone that makes the whole unit work. The drone can easily handle a rotor that stops working, which is pretty standard these days.
Here, too, Kimchi wasn’t quite ready to give away the secret sauce the team uses to make that work. And the team obviously tested the drones in the real world to validate its models.
Amazon started drone deliveries in England a while back, so that’s an obvious choice, but there’s no reason the company could opt for another country as well. Either way, what once looked like a bit of a Black Friday stunt may just land in your backyard sooner than you think.