Amazon Prime Air to test drone deliveries in California

Amazon’s hexagonal drone design gives it six degrees of freedom for more stability when delivering packages. | Source: Amazon Prime Air

Amazon said that later this year customers in Lockeford, California will be able to get certain items delivered by the company’s Amazon Prime Air drone delivery service. 

Amazon Prime Air was first announced in 2013, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced in 2020 that it was granting the company a Part 135 air carrier certificate for its delivery drones. Now, the company is looking for feedback that it will gather from customers in Lockeford. 

“Lockeford residents will soon have access to one of the world’s leading delivery innovations,” California State Assemblyman Heath Flora, whose district includes Lockeford, said. “It’s exciting that Amazon will be listening to the feedback of the San Joaquin County community to inform the future development of this technology.”

The drones are equipped with a sense-and-avoid system that ensures safe delivery of packages. The system can identify static objects in its path, like chimneys, and avoid them as it makes its way to a customer’s backyard. 

When it arrives at its destination, the drone descends to deliver the package. While it does this, the drone ensures that there’s space around the delivery location to safely drop its package. The drone looks for and steers clear of animals, people or other things that could get in the way when landing. 

In developing Prime Air, Amazon has made more than two dozen drone prototypes before landing on the current model, the MK27-2. This drone has a hexagonal design to give it six degrees of freedom, making it more stable while carrying packages. It also has propellers specially designed to minimize high-frequency soundwaves. 

Sometime this year, Amazon customers in Lockeford will see Prime Air-eligible items available on Amazon. The customers simply need to place an order like usual, and will then receive a status tracker for the order and an estimated arrival time. 

A drone will complete the delivery by flying to the designated delivery location, descending to the customer’s yard and hovering at a safe height. According to the company the drone will then release the package and rise back up to altitude. 

The company didn’t share exact details on when the service will begin, or when it will be expanded to Amazon customers in other cities. 

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