Amazon announced Wednesday that one of its drones has successfully delivered a Prime package to one of its customers in the U.K. The drone was deployed from a warehouse last week and needed only 13 minutes to travel 5 miles to the customer’s backyard.
The technology involved only two beta-testers located in the U.K. Drone delivery to customers needs to overcome multiple legal hurdles before it can be used in the U.S.
In the meantime, the e-commerce giant said that after the trial it plans to enroll more shoppers to test the tech. Initially, about a few dozen people would be able to order their items via drones. Later, the trial could expand to hundreds.
The company will now run the tests only around a Cambridge center in the United Kingdom.
The First Aerial Prime Delivery
The first successful attempt to ship goods via a drone happened on Dec. 7. Though the aerial craft didn’t fly very far, the feat is an important step for the company’s Prime Air delivery system.
Reportedly, human workers load the drones in a warehouse. Next, the devices exit the building on rails. The flight and landing require no human intervention as it runs automatically. Customers, on the other hand, need to place a small mat outside their homes for the drones to land on.
The company wants the delivery to take less than 30 minutes.
The first successful Prime delivery via a drone involved a bag of popcorn and an Amazon Fire TV set. The customer got the items in 13 minutes after the final click. Yet, the maximum load drones can carry is five pounds, the company noted.
In addition, there are some limitations to the delivery system: drones can only operate during daylight hours and on a clear sky. The company uploaded a video with the successful delivery on YouTube.
In the video, one can see Amazon used a type of drone it hasn’t used on previous occasions. In 2015, the company unveiled a hybrid between a plane and a quadcopter for the delivery system. This year, Amazon used a conventional quadcopter to transport the goods.
Amazon to Expand the Trial
Nonetheless, the U.K. is not the only country where Amazon tested the drones. In Austria, it has a facility where engineers are improving drones’ sense-and-avoid abilities based on visual sensors.
In the U.S., Amazon Prime customers eagerly await the tech. Three years ago, CBS advanced the idea that drone delivery could become mainstream in a few years. Experts, on the other hand, don’t expect the system to reach the U.S. soon.
U.K. authorities gave Amazon the green light to test the aerial vehicles beyond the line of sight this summer. For this, the crafts had to pass strict safety tests. In the U.K., it may take some time before the company can fly the drones in urban areas. The current test permit is only for rural areas.
Experts noted that flying a drone in a city is a lot more challenging than flying it in the countryside. Amazon plans to expand the pilot testing for rural customers in the coming weeks and gradually expand it to the suburbs and cities.
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