Amazon Prime Air is revolutionizing the online shopping space. It will use an octocopter drone to deliver packages to customers within 30 minutes of an order being placed (just like ordering a pizza!). There are however, a number of questions and concerns to be addressed before this awesome technology is fully implemented.
The next time you buy something on Amazon, it could arrive at your doorstep within 30 minutes. Delivered by a drone (like the one pictured below). This is the Amazon Prime Air delivery system.
What Is Amazon Prime Air?
Amazon Prime Air is a drone delivery service, and Amazon’s Research and Development branch has been busy designing and perfecting the vehicle. The central point of Prime Air is the Octocopter, an eight-propeller unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) equipped with an on-board GPS unit and lots of other bells and whistles. The current design can lift a shoebox-sized package weighing up to five pounds (2.3kg), which covers 86 percent of the products currently sold on Amazon. The octocopters are able to travel a 10-mile (16 kilometer) radius from an Amazon distribution center.
The video embedded below was posted on Amazon’s website and is a good preview of Amazon prime Air and the Amazon octocopter.
How Will It Work?
Much of what we knew of how Amazon Prime Air will work came from the embedded video above. But according to this recent Amazon patent for an unmanned aerial vehicle (filed on April 30, 2015), we now have some more clues and insight.
The drones will find their destination by continuous tracking of the location of the purchaser’s smartphone. This will make it possible to deliver to customers who might not be at home. There are references in the patent about how a package might be delivered to a boat. And in a hypothetical world filled with Amazon delivery drones flying to and fro, the drones will be able to communicate weather conditions and other pertinent data with each other.
Some other Prime Air features highlighted by the BBC include:
- Amazon will use different types of UAVs depending on the weight and shape of the package
- Cameras, infrared sensors, radar, flight sensors and sonar will be used to find safe landing zones
- The UAV will constantly scan for animals or humans and modify navigation to avoid such obstacles
Unanswered Questions And Concerns
As with any emerging technology, there are still issues left to resolve. Most of these issues are associated with regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
There have been many battles for drone research approval between Amazon and the FAA and as of this writing, the FAA recently granted approval to Amazon for drone research again.
People are also concerned about privacy. For example, not everyone might be very comfortable to let a drone obtain and (possibly save) their location details.
What about the actual technology itself? How will the drones deal with encounters with kids and animals/pets? What if someone with a grudge decides to start shooting drones out of the sky?
We will not have all the answers until this service is completely implemented and becomes mainstream. As to whether that will ever happen, I believe we can be quite certain. After all, UAVs are already being used for delivery in China, and a start-up in Australia (Zookal) delivers books by drone to customers in Sydney.
As for the future of drone delivery service, it is a rapidly growing technology. Some day in the not-too-distant future, it will be a common sight to observe drones delivering packages directly from warehouses to residences and businesses.
Check out the Amazon Prime Air official website.