Only 13 minutes after pressing, “Order Now,” one lucky U.K. customer received their Amazon Fire TV order via delivery drone. As a way of saying thank you for being part of Amazon’s Prime Air beta test, the drone also dropped off a bag of popcorn.
Taking place on December 7th, this is the first successful Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle (UAV) delivery as part of Amazon’s Prime Air service that promises a 30-minute or less lead-time anywhere in the world.
Working with a limited number of shoppers, Amazon is using a fleet of Quadcopter drones to deliver consumer goods from a fulfillment center located in rural Cambridge. Taking off from a warehouse runway positioned next to an “I Love Lucy” vending belt, the drones take their packages and like robotic storks on a mission, off they go – guided by GPS to their final destination.
The Cambridge beta customers can order their Prime Air products seven days a week as long as it’s during daylight hours and weather permitting. With instructions that include rolling out a mat in their backyard for a smooth landing, customers in remote Cambridge locations are experiencing what Amazon hopes to be the start of a large-scale logistics operation.
According to a recent TechCrunch article, “Amazon is able to do this in the U.K. because it received permission there to operate beyond line-of-sight flights last July.” So if you’re hoping to receive your new MacBook Air via drone delivery by this Christmas, don’t hold your breath – especially if you live in the U.S. Amazon’s drones had to pass grueling safety tests in the U.K. and even still, the deliveries are isolated to rural Cambridge locations.
With Prime Air development centers currently in the U.S., the U.K., Austria, and Isreal, Amazon hopes to improve its vision-based sense-and-avoid technology. Only then, might it be authorized to deliver packages in tough weather conditions or during the evening hours. As it stands right now, it’s pretty difficult to operate drones in heavy populated areas and if you add unpredictable weather into the mix, you have a recipe for disaster.
In its quest to reshape rapid parcel delivery, Amazon is on the cusp of something really special. With regulatory hurdles and drone technology still standing in its way, Amazon will have to think out of the box in order to get its drone fleet airborne before next holiday season.