Amazon has been talking about using drones to deliver parcels and packages for some time now – almost three years. However, the planned system has been slow to reach public testing and indeed the first Amazon drone design wasn't revealed until November last year. In the ten months since the drone was shown off, Amazon hasn't been idle: the company has announced that it has formed a partnership with the UK Government and the UK's Civil Aviation Authority in order to test the drone in key operational respects. Earlier in the year, Amazon fleshed out some of its Prime Air drone delivery plans, giving the drone a maximum flight plan of 30 minutes and a capacity of 5 pounds, or 2.5 kilograms. The drones themselves will weigh 55 pounds, which puts them at the top of the US Federal Aviation Administration small drone registration system. Amazon are believed to be working on multiple designs, each one customised for the environment the drone will be operating in. There are considerable differences in the weather and altitude of cities around the world, from dry and dusty, to high altitude, to coastal and to Britain, where presumably the drone will require extensive waterproofing and an internal locker for the package to keep it dry!
In Britain, the Amazon drones will be tested in three different ways. Firstly, the drones will be assessed when operating outside line-of-sight in rural areas. The drone's sensor suite and hazard avoidance technologies will also be assessed and finally, the Civil Aviation Authority will be assessing how well one pilot can operate multiple drones. In a statement, Amazon spokesman Paul Misener explained how Amazon's use of small drones in order to deliver packages to customers should improve the experience. Amazon also stated that this new technology would generate new jobs and "pioneer new sustainable delivery methods to meet future demand."
The new Prime Air testing does push the delivery drone concept one stage further, but we are still some months if not years away from seeing Amazon Prime Air drones flying over buildings en route to customer addresses in order to deliver a package. This testing as conducted in 2016 needs to be representative of how drones might work in several years time to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts. However, given that Amazon is not alone in pushing into drone delivery systems, it seems that in the years to come our new smartphone cases ordered from Amazon could be delivered by drone only thirty minutes from placing the order.