During this year’s Re:MARS conference in Las Vegas, Amazon said it will deliver packages to customers using drones “within months”.
The world’s largest retailer has been experimenting with drones for several years.
In December 2016, Amazon ran a successful trial in Cambridge using a drone to deliver a package within 13 minutes. In 2017, IoT News reported Amazon was adding 400 staff to its R&D centre in Cambridge, UK to focus on areas such as drones and AI.
Amazon debuted its latest drone iteration at the Re:MARS conference, boasting a 15-mile radius with packages 2.3kg (5lbs) or less.
Speaking on-stage, Amazon executive Jeff Wilke did not specify where initial drone deliveries will take place. No precise date for the launch was mentioned either, only that it will be within months.
Wilke boasts the drone can avoid obstacles such as people, dogs, and street furniture. One area that’s still unclear is how a drone can avoid being shot down. Presumably, some form of safety box will be used in addition to GPS tracking for retrieval in such a scenario.
Amazon’s latest drone has six rotors and uses a combination of visual, thermal, and ultrasonic sensors to understand its surroundings even if it loses connectivity.
"Some drones are autonomous but not able to react to the unexpected, relying simply on communications systems for situational awareness,” Mr Wilke said.
"If our drone’s flight environment changes – or the drone‘s mission commands it to come into contact with an object that wasn’t there previously – it will refuse, it is independently safe.”
Wilke explains that one of the biggest challenges for drones landing in people’s yards is the presence of wires such as telephone lines and clotheslines. The drone is VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) capable and uses AI to avoid wires on descending and ascending.
Sean Durkin, Head of Enterprise, UK & Ireland at OpenText, comments:
“This latest announcement from Amazon, highlighting the company’s plans to deliver by drone within months, is clear proof that this technology is gaining momentum in society.
New delivery initiatives that tap into innovative technology such as AI, automation and IoT will enable companies to deliver the fastest and most friction-free customer experience possible. More than that, they will help brands to drive revenue, better provide for their customers, and increase customer loyalty.
Drones have the potential to offer a phenomenally smooth customer experience, going one step further than some of the more ‘gimmicky’ concepts which don’t necessarily add real value.”
Amazon hopes its drones will help achieve its ‘Shipment Zero’ ambition for zero carbon deliveries. The company is aiming for 50 percent of its shipments to be carbon neutral by 2030.
In terms of noise pollution, Wilke said the drone is “optimised to minimise intrusive, high-frequency sounds”. While we’ll have to wait to see what that’s like in reality, it’s likely going to be quieter and less disruptive than delivery trucks/vans.
“Our drones are safe, efficient, stable, and good for the environment. We know customers have high standards, so we set a high bar for Prime Air. We’re excited to be nearing our goal.”
(Image Credit: Jordan Stead / Amazon)
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