SEATTLE — Amazon could launch autonomous flying drones "within months" in an effort to speed deliveries and reduce carbon emissions, according to a recent company blog post.
Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, presented the latest Prime Air drone design at the recent re:MARS (Machine Learning, Autonomous, Robotics and Space) conference in Las Vegas.
Click through for Amazon’s explanation of how its delivery drones will function and what this means for convenience stores …
The Prime Air drone is electric-powered and built to fly for 15 miles before recharging. Wilke's blog post envisions the drone completing 30-minute deliveries of small items, as the drones are not built to carry packages larger than about 5 pounds.
- Click here to watch a video of the drone in action.
While that might not sound very disruptive, it should put c-store operators on alert. Consider this: If a hungry city dweller or suburbanite had to choose between traveling to a store or summoning a flying robot to deliver a snack directly to them, which might they choose?
How it works
The drone’s wings—or shrouds, as Wilke's blog post refers to them—serve a dual purpose: They both surround the turbine blades to improve the drone’s safety and serve to make the device more aerodynamic.
The Prime Air drone's shrouds allow it to take off and land vertically like a helicopter and fly with the maneuverability of an airplane.
Smart and safe
Each of Amazon's drones are installed with a suite of sensors, algorithms and machine-learning programs that allow them to react to both moving and stationary objects.
They can even identify clotheslines, telephone wires or other thin wires and actively work to avoid them during flight, landing or liftoff, according to Wilke's blog post.
The regulation question
As advanced as Amazon's self-flying technology might sound, U.S. drone regulations are not nearly as forward-looking; however, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has already issued a certificate allowing Amazon Prime Air to operate its unmanned aircraft for package deliveries, according to a statement from the FAA.