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Amazon’s delivery robots are hitting the road

Big things are in the works at Amazon headquarters. Not only has the company vastly expanded its infrastructure in recent years, but it’s also been steadily building an army of delivery robots to prepare for real-world deployment. It may sound like a science fiction concept, but Amazon pledges to make its vision of drone delivery a reality in the coming year.

And to kick off its robot revolution, Amazon is releasing its latest delivery drones into the wild. Unlike the previously revealed aerial robots, these six-wheeled drones move by land and are already navigating neighborhoods to deliver packages to excited Prime customers.

Amazon says that it hopes its delivery bots become an ordinary part of the everyday scenery in American neighborhoods, but are we truly ready for robots to start delivering out packages? With Amazon’s infrastructure partners starting to flee them in fear, these robots might just become the company’s bread-and-butter for local deliveries.

Amazon Scout on the move in California

In a new press release, Amazon announced that it has officially begun deploying its land-based Scout drones to select customers in Irvine, California. According to the company, only a small amount of these six-wheeled robots are patrolling neighborhoods.

Unlike competitor projects, however, Amazon’s robots are completely autonomous — meaning they are able to navigate without human interaction.

That’s not to say that these drones are unaccompanied, mind you. According to Amazon, the Scout drones are watched over by roving Amazon employees nearby — who assess the results of each delivery and provide feedback to Amazon to improve the program in the future.

The news of this recent drone deployment comes on the heels of another announcement from Amazon and FedEx, where it’s been revealed that the companies will no longer be working together on ground deliveries. According to reporting from Business Insider on the matter, FedEx no longer sees Amazon as a partner, but rather a “threat to its bottom line.”

With an army of robots at its disposal, it’s no wonder. But before Amazon’s robot program is fully up and running, it’s likely that the company will deepen its existing partnership with UPS, which has been undergoing some hardships of its own. For them, the windfall of FedEx’s departure might be just what the doctor ordered.

What’s next: eyes on the skies

Now that Amazon has proven that ground-based drone delivery is feasible, it’s turning its eyes to the sky as it continues to perfect its aerial drone program. In previous stories, we’ve discussed Amazon’s designs for durable drones that are capable of vertical takeoff and landing — but an unexpected development in Alaska may spur the program ahead quicker than we expected.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it recently approved the first civilian drone flight that goes beyond the pilot’s “line of sight.”

Prior to this approval, drones were legally required to be within eyeshot of anyone piloting from below — which created a major hurdle for Amazon’s fledgling drone initiative. With this restriction seemingly lifted, Amazon now has the opportunity to invest even further in bringing its dreams of aerial deliveries to life.

With delivery robots now able to approach our homes by land and air, Amazon may very well be the first company to mainstream the use of drones in an everyday setting.

The company claims this factors into the design of drones like Scout, which is intended to look cute and approachable — yet bland and unremarkable. By blending into the background like an ordinary mail truck, Amazon’s bots will likely pave the way for even more robots to enter our lives. Let’s just hope they’re all friendly.

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