It’s well over a decade since Amazon launched its Amazon Drone Delivery called Prime Air Service. In fact, it was 2007 when the company first introduced unlimited next-day shipping. On what was at the time almost a million products.
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But in 13 years we’ve seen little change that is until recently many areas now offer same-day delivery. But behind closed doors, Amazon had been working on an ambitious plan to realize almost instant delivery.
The goal just 30 minutes from the click of the order now button to the tangible products in our hands.
Every delivery company can agree that the final mile or so of a product’s journey is the most expensive. As it leaves a shipping container and steps away from the lorries vessel it enters the smallest vehicle yet vans and sometimes cars.
Rather than carrying millions of products, a driver can now only carry a few dozen. Employing thousands of drivers comes at an incredible cost to shipping companies.
Amazon has been playing with the idea of cutting out these final employees with autonomous machines such as the six-wheeled scout robot.
Testing Phase and Government Approval
Its latest venture however has taken to the air. Testing has been taking place for Amazon’s fleet of drones since 2013. But it wasn’t until 2020 that the company received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate a fleet of Delivery Drones.
The online shopping giant joined the list of companies experimenting with the idea including Wing Aviation owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet and UPS flight forward.
How Amazon Drone Delivery Exactly Work?
When an order is received at a local fulfillment center it makes its way through the usual packaging process. Before finding itself in a special box designed to be carried by one of the company’s drones.
After being picked up by one of these the drone is carried to an outdoors take-off spot on a mini rail network. It’s not until it’s outdoors that the fully electric motors spin into action ready for takeoff, ascending vertically the drone will reach an altitude of fewer than 400 feet before beginning its journey to the customer’s house.
Just like a self-driving car, the drone contains a number of special sensors. To help it understand its surroundings including GPS, Visual Thermal, and Sonar Detectors.
This allows it to paint 3D pictures of the world around it including obstacles on the ground like people, wires, and buildings as well as airborne intrusions such as hot air balloons and other drones. This forms the basis of what Amazon calls Sense and Avoid Technology.
When the drone has arrived at the customer’s house it begins to scan for a safe landing spot. We’re unsure how this process works but from videos it could work as one of two ways
This could involve the drone assessing a fixed landing area either set up by the customer or a mapping system or a special map could be placed down by the customer which provides the drone with a reference point.
Amazon Drone Delivery Technology
The tech on this map could be as simple as a color-coded symbol for the drone to read or it could involve a QR code that confirms the correct location.
For a more private experience, the map may even use a combination of Bluetooth and ultra-wideband for pinpoint accuracy although this would have to involve charging the map between uses
It’s safe to say we don’t know at this point and Amazon could be trying a combination of all these ideas out right now.
Parcel Weight Limit
Currently, the weight limit for parcels set at just 5 pounds / 2.3 kilograms. This doesn’t sound like a lot but Amazon claims more than three-quarters of its parcels weigh less than this.
Just like cars various models will be designed for different environments. Some suited to the agile nature of city centers and some suited to the highspeed crossing of rural areas.
After Successful Amazon Drone Delivery
Once the delivery has been successfully made, the drone returns to the fulfillment center before embarking on another mission.
At the time of Collision
In the event of a collision, some believe the drones will be instructed to dismantle themselves mid-flight because smaller and lighter pieces of debris are less dangerous than a 25kilogram man-made asteroid heading for an innocent human.
Others believe intentional collisions can force. As crashing into something like a tree will be less catastrophic than somebody’s car.
The current problem is that fulfillment centers inhabit a large area which means they are found in semi-rural areas just outside the city boundaries
This is great for the handful of people who live locally to these warehouses but city dwellers are larger in numbers and generally order more packages online.
Amazon’s solution patents have already filed for the fulfillment center’s city-dwelling cousins. These buildings expected to resemble beehives tall in design and with multiple takeoff and landing zones across the surface.
A design similar to the unfavorably named Gherkin in London’s financial district could be beneficial. Allowing it not only to serve as a landmark for drones to use but with floor space in cities so expensive height is a sensible option.
Drone Traffic Monitoring Facility
Not only this it could allow the company to have its own air space monitoring facility high in the sky just like an airport’s air traffic control center.
The potential is huge here we’re talking about an amazon inspired city of course entirely theoretical for now.
Everything could double its purposes, lamp posts could become charging points for the drone, rooftops could become waiting areas, which could help regulate high demand areas, public spaces could become drop-off points for people lacking in private outdoor spaces as is the case for many apartments in the city.
The chances of seeing a fully qualified amazon drone delivery service any time soon are very slim, however.
Whereas vans navigate a series of roundabouts traffic lights and junctions on a 2D scale. There’s no such traffic management in our urban airspaces which operate on a 3D scale.
Amazon Prime Air Development Centers
Amazon Prime Air development centers are in the United States, the United Kingdom, Austria, France, and Israel.
First Amazon Drone Delivery
Don’t be disappointed, though Amazon is working to realize this dream. A very important day for the company was 7th December 2016. This was the date that its first customer received his first drone-delivered amazon parcel via Prime Air.
From purchase to delivery the smooth process took just 13 minutes. In less than half the goal time frame he was able to choose from thousands of products from his local fulfillment center in Cambridge England.
As one of two customers part of the initial trial before it extended to include hundreds of more participants
To speed up the process amazon plans to act within the regulations which means less time spent bending the rules.
Rules and Regulations on Drones
Current US Regulations require drones to fly under 400 feet at speeds of less than 100 miles per hour. Prime Air will operate between 200 and 500 feet at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour within a 10-mile radius of their base station.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously described the success of his company was thanks to its passion for the end-to-end experience.
From the customer’s initial engagement with the website to the arrival of a product. Online tracking and often faster-than anticipated delivery times have stunned millions of customers. But things are about to get a whole lot better
With years of planning under its belt and its huge expertise in online shopping and delivery. We’re excited to see amazon’s final solution to deliver thousands of packages in less than 30 minutes. But have you ever received a parcel by a robot if so what was your experience?