Amazon is now delivering orders with drones in California and Texas with the goal of eventually flying packages to customers’ homes within an hour. Ars Technica reports.
The retail giant’s drone delivery service, Amazon Prime Air, has already dropped a small number of packages by drone into customers’ backyards in the run-up to Christmas in Lockeford, California, and College Station, Texas.
“Our goal is to safely introduce our drones to the air. We are starting in these communities and will gradually expand deliveries to more customers over time,” said Amazon Air spokesperson Natalie Banke. KTXL Fox 40.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has authorized Amazon Part 135 to ship packages by drone in 2020, as well as the submission of Final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact/Record of Decision documents for Lockeford on November 14 and College station on December 12.
The rural town of Lockeford, California, is located 50 miles southeast of Sacramento and has only about 3,500 residents, while College Station, Texas, is a medium-sized town 100 miles northwest of Houston, which is home to Texas A&M.
Those living in either city are eligible to sign up and place orders, while Amazon will notify customers elsewhere when drone delivery is available in their area. The most recent filings indicate that Amazon’s deliveries will be available within 4 miles of the Texas delivery center and within 4 miles of the drone depot (aka Prime Air Drone Delivery Center or PADDC) in California.
Operations from the College Station PADDC would be daytime up to five days a week. The area of operations is divided into four sectors, with each sector having a maximum of approximately 50 delivery flights per day of operation. Only one aircraft can be airborne in each sector at any given time.
Operations of the Lockeford PADDC would be up to five days a week during the day. The area of operations is divided into four sectors, with each sector having a maximum of approximately 50 delivery flights per day of operation. Only one aircraft can be airborne in each sector at any given time.
After placing an order, customers receive tracking information as well as an estimated delivery time when they can expect the drone to deliver the package to their backyard.
The drones are intentionally hexagonal-shaped with six propellers to improve stability and minimize high-frequency sound waves, Amazon claims. Although the MK27-2 delivery drones fly autonomously and are programmed to avoid running into obstacles such as chimneys, Amazon says it is currently using humans to monitor deliveries.
Safety will continue to be a consideration, especially given some of the setbacks Amazon faced while developing the drone delivery program, including crashes. In an incident at the test site in Pendleton, Oregon, a drone fell 50 feet and started a wildfire that spanned 25 acres, as reported by Insider and Bloomberg.
At the moment, Amazon is currently working on a new and reportedly safer MK30 drone that will be available for use in 2024. It should be lighter and smaller than the MK27-2 delivery drones, more resistant to high temperatures and light rain and go further.
Amazon is just one of many companies working on their own drone delivery services. For example, Alphabet and Walmart launched their own versions last year to select customers in certain areas.