Amazon to test delivery service by air

Monday, 14 July 2014
Amazon customers could soon see their purchases delivered by drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The world's largest online retailer confirmed it is undergoing tests to deliver goods which could reach customers within 30 minutes of placing an order, its chief executive Jeff Bezos stated.

The drones, called Octocopters, could deliver packages weighing up to 2.3kg to customers within 30 minutes, however, he added that it could take up to five years for the service to start.

Whilst in Australia the law allows the use of unmanned aircraft for commercial use, in the UK and US the local aviation administrations would have to approve the commercial use.

"I know this looks like science fiction, but it's not," Mr Bezos told CBS television's 60 Minutes programme. We can do half-hour delivery and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds (2.3kg), which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver."

Prime Air could mean delivery within 30 mins

The service will be called Prime Air and comes as Amazon is looking to improve its efficiency to boost growth.

Amazon also posted a video on its website showing a drone picking up a package from one of its warehouses and delivering it to the doorstep of a customer's house.

Civilian air space is expected to be opened up to all kinds of drones in the US by 2015 and in Europe by 2016.

Existing regulations are in place to minimise the risk of injury to people on the ground, said Dr Darren Ansell, an expert on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) from the University of Central Lancashire.

"The UAVs do not currently have the awareness of their environment to be able to avoid flying into people. To deliver goods to people's homes for example in residential areas, the UAVs must overfly densely populated towns and cities, something that today's regulations prevent.

"Other things to consider are security of the goods during the transit. With no one to guard them the aircraft and package could be captured and stolen," he said.

Amazon said: "from a technology point of view, we'll be ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place."

The FAA was "actively working on rules for unmanned aerial vehicles", the company said, adding that it hoped the green light would be given as early as 2015.

"One day, Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today."

Image: Amazon Prime Air

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