Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos offered new information about the company’s delivery drones during the 2016 Pathfinder Awards ceremony on Saturday. The key detail: how the drones know where to land.
“If you have a landing field, you can mark it with a symbol that you can print out with your printer, and put it wherever you want the vehicle to land,” Bezos said. “It will come over, see it, and land. And if it sees anything that makes it nervous, it can divert or phone home for help.”
Bezos also confirmed several known aspects of the delivery drone design and its capabilities.
“The vehicle is completely autonomous. It lands by itself, navigates by itself, and can fly more than 50 miles per hour,” he said. “It has a twenty-mile range, round-trip, and can deliver packages five pounds or less.”
Amazon currently tests these drones in the United Kingdom. This move across the pond happened shortly after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released new rules for commercial drones in July.
“We’re doing a lot of the R&D and test flights at Cambridge, UK, now because we’re getting really good cooperation from the British equivalent of the FAA, the CAA,” Bezos said. “It’s really incredible.”
The Pathfinder Awards, which are meant to honor “individuals with ties to the Pacific Northwest, who have made significant contributions to the development of the aerospace industry,” were first granted in 1982 and are held in Seattle.
The Museum of Flight, one of the Pathfinder Awards’ managers, said Bezos received the award because Amazon and Blue Origin, his rocket company, show that he’s a “perfect manifestation of a Pathfinder, implementing technology for the present, and future benefit of humankind.”
Bezos’s enthusiasm for Amazon’s drones is as strong as it was when he revealed them on 60 Minutes in 2013. At the time, Bezos estimated that the drones would take four to five years to debut. Three years later, Bezos seems like he’s ready for them to take flight.
Now we just have to wait for the drones themselves to be ready.