Amazon is no stranger to changing entire industries with its business models alone. The company's online store revolutionized the way people shop from home -- leading to record-breaking sales and a complete overhaul of how we receive packages. Not content with a mere retail platform, Amazon's foray into logistics led to the birth of Prime and its famous 2-day shipping. Now, fast shipping is the norm.
In 2013, Amazon announced radical new plans for its next-generation delivery system: unmanned, autonomous aerial drones that deliver packages in record time. These miniature helicopters would launch from strategically placed "drone hives" -- shipping cargo from warehouse to doorstep faster than mail carriers are capable of doing.
Now, Amazon says it's ready to launch the new program. In an announcement from the company's re:MARS keynote, the latest edition of its delivery drone was unveiled with a projected launch window of later this year! For the first time in history, a major company will be working to standardize robot delivery on a massive scale -- and Americans will be among the first to see it in action. Read on for the latest updates on Amazon's drone program, as well as high-definition video of the new drone in action.
How do Amazon's new delivery drones work?
After years of speculation, Amazon is finally ready to open the floodgates and set a fleet of delivery drones into the wild. The company says it's excited to finally use autonomous robots to fulfill its vision of sustainable, zero-emission deliveries in 30 minutes or less.
The delivery drones are fully electric, environmentally friendly, and are equipped with a shielded design that protects it from hazards and mid-air collisions. Advanced motion sensors are used to detect obstacles both in-air and near the ground, which helps them with vertical takeoffs and landings.
Since the project's initial announcement, major advances have been made to ensure the drones are as safe and efficient as possible. The cameras and obstacle sensors are now sensitive enough to detect thin structures like clotheslines and wires.
In order to receive a drone delivery, however, Amazon customers will ideally need to make space for the robots to land. This area should be flat, as well as free of animals, debris, and hazards. If an ideal landing spot isn't available, the drone will scan for a nearby place to land that best fits this objective. It can even detect animals and people from overhead!
When will Amazon's drones take flight?
In the Amazon re:MARS keynote, the company projected that drone deliveries will be ready to start "within months." This shockingly near-term timeline may come as a surprise to tech-watchers, but Amazon has been hard at work perfecting its drone systems over the past few years.
Tests have been occurring for a while now near its depot location in Cambridge, England. Additionally, the company has partnered with NASA itself to perfect its air-traffic control systems for maximum stability.
With all these exciting announcements, however, it's important to be realistic about how this new system is likely to roll out.
Amazon's current specs list a 15 mile radius for its autonomous drones, which are only able to carry packages five pounds or smaller. In order to use Amazon Prime Air (as the system is tentatively called,) you'll need to be located near an Amazon depot, where the drones are likely to be stored.
That's not to say things will stay this way. Select cities may pilot the program, but as popularity and infrastructure grow, you can expect Prime Air to expand to more cities in the coming year.
Judging by reaction to Amazon's radical new service, customers are ready to embrace a drone-filled world. For the first time since the dawn of the new millennium, people will finally be able to look to the skies and think to themselves "I really live in the future." If Amazon continues on its current path, who knows just how wild this future can become!
Yes, Alexa, Siri and Google are listening -- 6 ways to stop devices from recording you
There are eyes and ears everywhere across the globe with new tech that's always watching, even here in the U.S. But they don't always have to be.