Today, Amazon released the latest look at their proposed flying drone delivery system, just in time to get folks excited to return to their site for Cyber Monday deals in just a few hours.
Amazon Prime Air — which is what they’re calling the new drone delivery program that was hinted at back in 2013 — isn’t a reality just yet, but Amazon is putting big bucks behind making sure the “future service” gets off the ground.
According to Amazon Prime Air’s FAQ, the company writes: “It looks like science fiction, but it’s real. One day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road.”
While these drones aren’t ready for takeoff just yet, Amazon has given us a sneak-peek at what it might look like when they do take flight. Jeremy Clarkson, formerly of Top Gear, introduces the ad and gives viewers the lowdown on how a package gets from the factory to your hands.
These drones look a little different than the drone prototype introduced back in 2013, but Amazon writes that they have over a dozen prototypes in research and design labs that they’re trying to perfect for the service. The sleek-looking one in their latest video weighs in at 55-pounds.
First, the drone picks up desired product(s) at a nearby facility after receiving an order and should be able to deliver the goods within 30 minutes.
The drone then takes off at an altitude of 400 feet or less, carrying the package (which can weigh five pounds or less) to its destination. These current drones can fly for up to 15 miles straight.
While in the air, the drone uses Amazon’s “sophisticated ‘sense and avoid’ technology” that will seek out any airborne or terrestrial obstacles in its way.
Next, the drone will find its target destination and land on what looks to be the familiar Amazon logo (which the person receiving the package will presumably put out on their lawn prior to the drone’s arrival).
The drone drops off the package and resumes its flight at normal altitude before jetting home to the local Amazon facility.
Right now, Amazon has testing facilities in the U.S., the UK, and Israel, but it seems like it’ll be a while before American consumers will be able to see delivery drones hover right outside their living room windows — especially with the new federal regulations on amateur drones, who knows what hoops Amazon will have to jump through. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos recently said that the UK seems to be a pretty likely candidate for the first drone deliveries.
Besides federal regulations, there are plenty of other arguments for why drones may not replace your delivery guy after all — money and the relatively puny weight limit (only five pounds, really?) are chief among those reasons.
It also looks like there’s a landing pad for the drone to spot from the air, but that has us wondering what the drone delivery program will look like in urban environments where yard space (and areas to put down a landing pad, however temporarily) are scarce. Will there be designated Amazon Prime Air delivery pads scattered throughout urban neighborhoods, or will this new program be limited to folks in the suburbs?
Check out the Prime Air goods here:
Amazon has yet to release an actual start date for the service; however, they write on their website that “putting Prime Air into service will take some time, but we will deploy when we have the regulatory support needed to realize our vision.” (So this whole thing is pretty much hypothetical at this point.)
Clearly there are plenty of questions Amazon needs to answer before we can get our Prime deliveries via these little flyers… but hey, we can dream, can’t we?