Later this year Amazon customers in Lockeford, California may start to see some packages delivered by aerial drones instead of being dropped off by a truck or van driver.
It’s the next step for Amazon Prime Air, a delivery-by-drone initiative that Amazon first unveiled in 2013, but which has only been deployed in very small scale tests up until now. But Amazon seems confident that the technology is ready for a larger pilot project… although it’s not that large a pilot program. Lockeford has a population of just over 3,500 people.
If everything goes according to plan, Amazon customers in Lockeford will be able to opt into Prime Air deliveries, and they’ll see eligible items when shopping. Once an order is placed, Amazon will get to work processing and shipping the order… but instead of packing it on a truck and driving it to the customer’s door, the company will use a drone to fly the package to its final destination.
There’s still a chance things won’t go according to plan though. Amazon says that it’s been “working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and local officials in Lockeford to obtain permission to conduct these deliveries,” which seems to indicate that not all of those permissions are in place just yet.
But theoretically the technology could allow Amazon to deliver packages to locations that might be harder or less fuel-efficient to reach by road. In order to cut down on the risks of losing a package (or a drone), Amazon says it’s developed technology that allows its drones to detect and avoid obstacles (including “other aircraft, people, pets”) even when there’s not a person nearby to guide the drone.
Amazon says its latest drone design (MK27-2) has a hexagonal design, six propellers that have been designed to produce less high-frequency noise, and six degrees of freedom for improved stability during flight.
Amazon hasn’t provided information about how much weight its latest drones can carry or how far they can travel, but at this point it’s probably safe to say that only a small subset of the items the company sells will be eligible for drone delivery. Amazon says “thousands of everyday items” will be available though.
There’s no word on if or when Prime Air will roll out to other communities, but it will likely depend on how things go in Lockeford.