We’ve been hearing about Amazon’s plans to deliver packages via drone for years, but now the prospect of 30-minute deliveries appear to be nearing reality. At its re:MARS Conference today, Amazon unveiled its new ‘Prime Air’ drone design, saying it would enable airborne deliveries “within months.” In other words, this is the robotic courier you may soon see on your doorstep.
For reference, here’s the previous version:
And this was the first iteration:
We’ve come a long way.
The new Prime Air’s key change is its ‘hybrid’ design that combines the vertical take-off and precision of a traditional drone with the aerodynamics and efficiency of an airplane. The Prime Air operates on six degrees of freedom rather than the usual four, which Amazon says makes it more stable in gusty conditions. That shroud around the drone functions as a wing for added lift, making the drone more efficient, while also making it safer.
Amazon is also using a host of sensors and AI systems to allow the drone to make independent decisions in the case of unexpected obstacles in the flight path. This is particularly important considering the drone’s destination: your home. It’s supposedly able to avoid small objects like clotheslines and telephone wires that frustrate other systems
Jeff Bezos had previously promised Prime Air deliveries would begin by 2019, so it’s nice to see the project is still on track. The program promises to be able to deliver packages under five pounds and within 15 miles of a fulfillment center in under 30 minutes. It also helps reduce Amazon’s carbon footprint – an electric drone traveling in a straight trajectory is certainly more efficient than a car navigating busy roads.
Of course, Amazon ultimately just wants people to order more stuff. The rapid gratification of 30-minute deliveries seems like a surefire way to get people to do that.