The Amazon Air prime service is a future parcel delivery system that will utilize remote-controlled UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to deliver goods. The FAA has granted approval for prototype testing last March 2015 in the US. Actual testing for the robotic vehicles is ongoing at an undisclosed site in Canada, close to the US border.
Amazon’s delivery UAVs are miniature helicopters with 8 rotors equipped with GPS navigation. These unmanned octocopters or drones run on electric motors, making the delivery system more environment-friendly. FAA regulations have mandated a maximum flight height of 400 feet and a maximum speed of 100 mph for the drones.
The Amazon prototype drones are compliant with the FAA technical and functional specifications, and are equipped with multiple redundancies to ensure safety. Its capabilities include horizontal flight and vertical take-off and landing. The drone delivery service requires a clear space with an Amazon landing pad to guide the drone to a smooth landing and safe deposit of its payload. Though some drone prototypes are already being tested, Amazon is reported to be working with drone designers in the US, Israel, and the UK for drones with variable payloads and the capability to withstand different environments.
Amazon drone specs
The Amazon Air prime delivery is envisioned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as an emergency 30-minute delivery service for clients living within a 10-mile radius from an Amazon order fulfillment center. This limitation is due to the fact that the battery life of the prototype Amazon drones lasts for about 30 minutes, and the flight speed is capped by the FAA at 100 mph. Furthermore, the FAA requires that the pilot must keep sight of the drone throughout its flight. The Amazon Air prime delivery is limited to orders weighing less than five pounds delivered in tiny packs that can fit into the cargo box of the drone.
The launching of the Amazon Air prime drone delivery will depend on the company’s distribution infrastructure at the time of its launch. Amazon currently has 195 active facilities in the US, 33 in the UK, and 6 in Canada. There are 340 operating Amazon facilities worldwide, with 37 additional sites being planned in the future.
These active facilities are a combination of fulfillment and distribution centers, including redistribution and regional sorting centers in the US. There are currently 42 Prime Now Hubs in the US where orders are filled and delivered within a 1 to 2-hour delivery window. The goal of the prime hubs is for faster deliveries, which is exactly what the drone delivery service aims to accomplish.
Amazon is currently working on a lease agreement for 40 cargo planes with Atlas Air and ATSG. This move is in line with the company’s efforts to implement faster delivery of goods and minimize reliance on third party shippers, such as UPS and FedEx.
The Amazon drones are still a few years away from launch but the company has already unveiled an Amazon Prime Air livery in one of its leased cargo planes. It is most probably the same livery that the Amazon drones will display when these unmanned aerial vehicles are launched to support the company’s goal of instant deliveries.