Amazon to start drone deliveries in California and Texas this year

The fully-electric drones will be able to deliver packages weighing less than 2.2 kilograms to customers in less than an hour

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Amazon will start delivering some orders in the US with drones by the end of the year, sticking to plans announced in June.

The fully electric MK27-2 drone weighs about 36 kilograms and will be capable of delivering packages that weigh less than 2.2kg to customers in less than an hour, from click to delivery.

Customers who live in Lockeford, California, and College Station, Texas, will be among the first to receive Prime Air deliveries later this year.

“The drones will fly in a three-mile (4.8 kilometre) radius from our two facilities in Texas and California. It will fly up to 400 feet or under, as per the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] regulations. … it can carry five-pound weight, it is a good starting point,” Paul Butler, community affairs manager at Amazon, told The National on the sidelines of a “delivering the future” event at Bos27, the company’s innovation and manufacturing centre in Westborough, Massachusetts.

Walmart, the world's biggest retailer, already offers drone delivery. In May, the company said it planned to expand the service to six states by the end of the year, with the potential to deliver one million packages annually.

Aramex, the Middle East's biggest courier company, has tested drone deliveries in Oman, a first step in streamlining its business with emerging technologies and reducing its carbon footprint.

Logistics and cargo companies experienced a sharp growth in activity in 2020 after the Covid-19 pandemic struck, when safety measures drove more consumers to shop online.

However, the industry has been hit with an increase in costs caused by supply chain bottlenecks, rising inflation rates and higher oil prices, which have put pressure on margins.

Drone deliveries, seen as the next evolution in the logistics market, are being tipped to improve efficiency, with faster delivery times and a sustainable model designed to cope with user demand and comply with environmental goals.

The drone package delivery market is projected to reach about $5.6 billion by 2030 from $228 million this year, at a compound annual growth rate of almost 50 per cent, data from research company Markets and Markets shows.

Amazon's drones are equipped with a sense-and-avoid system that ensures they are safe when in transit and when approaching the ground, the company said.

Its algorithms allow the drones to detect various objects. They can identify a static object in their path, such as a chimney, or moving objects including other aircraft or animals.

If obstacles are identified, the drone will automatically change course to safely avoid them.

The company has designed, built and tested a number of drones and created many prototypes, Mr Butler said.

“Our drones come with many sensors and cameras … they will sense any obstacle well in advance. We have been testing drone delivery for many years now and it is completely safe. We are very excited to finally take this technology to our customers,” Mr Butler said.

After placing an order, a customer will receive an estimated arrival time with a status tracker for their purchase.

The drone will fly to the designated delivery location, descend to the customer’s back garden, and hover at a safe height. It will then safely release the package and rise again to altitude.

Amazon announces sophisticated MK30 drone

The world's largest e-commerce company also unveiled the new design for Prime Air’s delivery drone, the MK30.

The new delivery drone will have greater range, expanded temperature tolerance and the capability to fly in light rain, enabling customers to choose a drone delivery more often, the company said.

Due to come into service in 2024, this drone will be lighter and smaller than the MK27-2.

“Prime Air’s flight science team has created new custom-designed propellers that will reduce the MK30’s perceived noise by another 25 per cent. That’s a game-changer, and we are very excited about it,” the company said.

Updated: November 11, 2022, 1:10 PM
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