Amazon.com Inc. has begun delivering packages using drones, Ars Technica reported on Wednesday.
The online retail and cloud computing giant plans to offer drone deliveries through a service called Prime Air. This week, the service became available to residents of Lockeford, California and College Station, Texas. Amazon intends to expand the availability of Prime Air to additional locations over time.
“Our aim is to safely introduce our drones to the skies,” an Amazon spokesperson stated. “We are starting in these communities and will gradually expand deliveries to more customers over time.”
Amazon first disclosed plans to deliver packages using drones in 2013. The initiative reached a major milestone in 2020, when the company received an authorization known as an air carrier certificate from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. The certificate allows Amazon to use delivery drones for commercial purposes.
Amazon will make thousands of items from its e-commerce marketplace available for drone delivery in Lockeford and College Station. After placing an order, users will receive access to a webpage that displays the estimated package arrival time as well as an order status tracker. Amazon expects to deliver orders made through Prime Air in less than an hour.
The company is using an internally-developed drone dubbed the MK27-2 to make deliveries. The drone is designed to carry packages weighing less than five pounds, which Amazon says account for 85% of the orders made through its e-commerce marketplace. The MK27-2 uses six electric propellers to fly at a top speed of up to 50 miles per hour.
The drone takes off vertically and reaches a maximum altitude of 400 feet during flight. After reaching a customer’s home, the MK27-2 descends to an altitude of about 12 fleet and drops the package that it carries in the backyard. According to Amazon, its delivery drones feature a navigation system that automatically avoids obstacles such as other aircraft.
In 2024, Amazon plans to expand the Prime Air fleet with a new delivery drone known as the MK30. It can can fly longer distances than the MK27-2, withstands higher temperatures and is capable of operating in light rain. The drone’s improved design could make it easier for Amazon to roll out Prime Air more broadly.
Amazon is one of several companies developing drone delivery services. Another market player, Alphabet Inc.’s Wing subsidiary, has completed more than 200,000 commercial drones deliveries in the U.S., Finland and Australia. As part of its long-term development roadmap, Wing hopes to build a series of specialized aircraft each optimized for a different type of package.
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