Drone deliveries have long been promised, and with the advances in tech, it’s a bit surprising that we haven’t seen the service unfold yet. But Amazon promised we’ll see drone delivery – “Prime Air” – by the end of the year, having picked a location for its limited launch.
Amazon Prime Air
“The promise of drone delivery has often felt like science fiction. We’ve been working for almost a decade to make it a reality,” said Amazon in a blog post announcing that it would launch Prime Air drone delivery service by the end of the year in Lockeford, California.
Lockeford was a pointed choice as the first Amazon drone delivery location. It has historical links in aviation, as Weldon B. Cooke, who built and flew aircraft in the early 1990s, hailed from Lockeford.
Perhaps we haven’t seen more deliveries because most of these tiny aircraft can’t avoid larger aircraft and similar obstacles in their paths.
“We’re building something different,” explained Amazon. “We’ve created a sophisticated and industry-leading sense-and-avoid system that will enable operations without visual observers and allow our drone to operate at greater distances while safely and reliably avoiding other aircraft, people, pets, and obstacles.”
Amazon designed the Prime Air drone delivery service to have a “sense-and-avoid system” so that it will be safe in transit and when landing.
“Our algorithms use a diverse suite of technologies for object detection. Using this system, our drone can identify a static object in its path, like a chimney. It can also detect moving objects on the horizon, like other aircraft, even when it’s hard for people to see them,” explained Amazon.
“If obstacles are identified, our drone will automatically change course to safely avoid them. As our drone descends to deliver the package into a customer’s backyard, the drone ensures that there’s a small area around the delivery location that’s clear of any people, animals, and other obstacles.”
Since Amazon has been working on its delivery drone for nearly 10 years, it’s gone through several prototypes, with more than two dozen overall. Some of the prototypes appear in this article. The image just above is the latest version, which will be used in Lockeford.
Amazon is one of just three companies to earn an FAA air carrier certificate for drone delivery.
Lockeford Reaction to Drone Deliveries
Later this year, Lockeford residents will see notifications of which products are available for Prime Air drone delivery. They will order as they normally would and get an ETA and status tracker. The drone will then fly to the customer’s backyard and drop the order.
The Lockeford customer feedback will help determine how the process will evolve, but the residents are already not appreciative. Yet, Amazon claims the drone delivery service will bring new jobs and local partnerships, and will also reduce carbon emissions.
“Lockeford residents will soon have access to one of the world’s leading delivery innovations,” said California State Assemblyman Heath Flora. “It’s exciting that Amazon will be listening to the feedback of the San Joaquin County community to inform the future development of this technology.”
Yet, upon learning of the upcoming service, one local said, “Target practice!”
There was also pushback in New York City, where Amazon planned a second headquarters. Also fighting against involvement were a Denver suburb, a community on New York’s Canadian border, and a small town in Massachusetts. College Station, Texas, will be voting on whether to allow Prime Air next month.
“They’re invading our privacy,” said another Lockeford local. He’s worried about cameras overhead seeing his backyard. He thinks Amazon will “destroy our mom-and-pop stores.” Perhaps someone should notify him that Amazon has more or less already done that.
A local who is an existing Amazon customer said, “I’ve got a lot of room; why not?”
Lockeford residents also have concerns of scaring livestock, packages being delivered to the wrong yard, Amazon having too much power, and that employees aren’t treated well at the company.
Amazon definitely has a hard sell on its hands. Read on to learn about the FTC investigating Amazon for deception with Prime accounts.
Image credit: Unsplash
Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox