Imagine having your morning coffee or your new smartphone delivered by drone. It may seem futuristic, but Amazon wants to add drone delivery to its already impressive list of services.
This program, dubbed Prime Air, would use autonomous drones to deliver packages within 30 minutes of you placing your order. So, if you’re interested in learning more about Prime Air, then keep reading this article!
Does Amazon Use Drones in 2023?
Prime Air is a drone delivery service currently being developed by Amazon. It uses autonomous drones to deliver packages within 30 minutes of an order being placed. Eligible packages must weigh less than 5 pounds and fit in the drone’s cargo box. This program was announced in 2013 but is still in the research and development phase.
If you’d like to know more about Prime Air, then make sure to read the rest of our article for more interesting information!
When Did Amazon Start Using Drones?
Amazon introduced its experimental drone delivery service Prime Air during a 60 Minutes feature in 2013.
At the time, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos promised doorstep delivery powered by drones that would land, drop off your package and fly away.
Bezos claimed the “R&D project” would take between four to five years to become a reality.
Since that time, Amazon has made strides towards bringing the project to market. For example, they had a successful test flight in 2016.
What’s more, in 2020, the e-commerce giant received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to begin drone operations.
Despite these successes, the future of Prime Air remains uncertain. Setbacks like layoffs, workload surges, and an unrealistic work environment have plagued the program for years.
How Do Amazon Drones Work?
The idea behind drone delivery is that when you place an order on Amazon, you will have the option to select Prime Air delivery.
Next, your order will be routed to the Amazon fulfillment center closest to your delivery address.
Once the order is received, it’s packaged and placed in a special carrying container designed for drone delivery.
Packages must weigh less than 5 pounds, fit into the drone’s cargo-carrying case and have a delivery location less than 10 miles away from the fulfillment center.
A package is attached to the drone and the drone takes off using a railroad-like system.
Drones ascend vertically and reach a flying altitude of 400 ft or less.
Drones are equipped with GPS, as well as visual and thermal sensors to help them understand their surroundings.
These systems help the drone avoid obstacles and reach its destination safely.
When the drone reaches its destination, it scans the area for a safe landing place, drops off the package, and returns to the fulfillment center before embarking on another delivery.
Keep in mind that Amazon is still in the testing phase of this service, so this explanation is mostly theoretical for the time being.
Are Amazon Drones Autonomous?
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the drones Amazon will use for Prime Air are autonomous unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
What Will Amazon Drones Look Like?
As Amazon is still in the testing phase of the Prime Air service, it remains unclear what the drones will look like.
Reportedly, the company is testing a variety of vehicle designs and delivery mechanisms to figure out which models work best in different environments.
Additionally, Amazon is quick to note that the appearance and features of its drones will evolve over time in order to prioritize efficiency, stability, and safety.
How Much Can Amazon Drones Carry?
Amazon reports that its drones will be able to carry packages weighing up to 5 pounds.
This may not seem like a lot, but the company reports that more than 75% of its packages weigh less than that.
Not only do packages have a weight limit, but they must also be small enough to fit into the carrying container used by the drones.
At this time, Amazon hasn’t specified the maximum dimensions of Prime Air packages.
What Company Will Amazon Use for Drones?
Amazon is still in the process of choosing which (if any) external company to use for its Prime Air drones.
Dozens of Amazon employees involved in drone research, development, and manufacturing were reportedly fired in 2019.
At the same time, Amazon began talks with third-party manufacturers.
Allegedly Amazon has engaged in talks with two external manufacturers, FACC Aerospace and Aernnova Aerospace, to handle drone component creation, but no deal has been finalized.
In addition to the talks with these two companies, Amazon has requested additional proposals.
This could indicate the desire to get agreements from more than two companies.
Does Amazon Use Drones in Warehouses?
Amazon doesn’t currently use drones in the warehouses.
That being said, the company did file a patent application for a bubble-like drone equipped with a claw that would be used to grab items off of shelves and assemble them for packaging.
In addition to this patent, Amazon was awarded another patent for a flying warehouse that would deploy delivery drones.
This “airborne fulfillment center” (AFC) would resemble an airship or a blimp and would float at an altitude of around 45,000 feet.
The drone would be stocked with products that drones would deliver by descending to their cruising altitudes and locating customers.
Whether or not Amazon’s drone delivery service will become part of the company’s shipping infrastructure remains to be seen.
This technology would bring loads of benefits to customers, with almost instantaneous delivery chief among them.
However, there’s still a lot to study when it comes to the environmental impact and cost of the service.