Amazon is the biggest e-commerce site in the world and is renowned for providing quality services to customers. One of the ways by which Amazon is planning to improve customers’ experience is to use drones to deliver packages to customers. If you are looking for information about Amazon’s drone delivery services, you’ve come to the right place.
Amazon’s Prime Air fleet is yet to be deployed. But their unique and patented proposed delivery drones have a hexagonal hybrid design with very few moving parts. They take off with propellers like a quadcopter drone, then switch to a fixed wing position for longer flight.
Amazon’s proposed (and patented) delivery drones are optimized in every way for safety and efficiency. There’s a shroud that’s designed to protect the blades of the drone during takeoff when transitioning from a vertical, helicopter-like flight at takeoff to its airplane-like mode. Operations were scheduled to start in late 2019 but are yet to commence as of the time of writing this article.
Is Amazon Using Drones for Delivery?
The answer to this question is ‘not yet’ although Amazon already has a plan in place to start delivering packages with drones. The delivery system, dubbed ‘Prime Air’ is intended to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles, also called drones.
Amazon’s vision with Prime Air is to provide a better delivery experience for its millions of customers. This makes sense when you consider that Prime Air has the potential to be a very fast and efficient delivery system.
As we mentioned earlier, Prime Air should have kickstarted in 2019 in selected cities but the service has yet to materialize to date. It’s obvious that the current Covid-19 pandemic delayed the implementation of the Prime Air service.
There are requirements that packages must meet in order to qualify to be delivered by Amazon’s Prime Air drones. For one, packages must weigh less than 5 pounds (2.25 kg). Also, packages must be small enough to fit into the cargo box of the drones. And finally, the destination of the drone (delivery location) must be within a 10-mile (16 km) radius of a participating Amazon order fulfillment center. This way, the package will arrive in less than 30 minutes as promised.
Does Amazon Produce its Own Drones?
The design for Amazon’s delivery drones was produced in-house, which means Amazon is responsible for the design and production of its drones. Amazon claims the latest design of its drones will bring about improvement in stability, efficiency, as well as safety.
The company has also shared more details about its vision to come up with an independently safe and autonomous drone delivery system that can make safe decisions even when it encounters unfamiliar situations.
The first design of Amazon’s delivery drones was unveiled at its first Mars conference in Las Vegas. At the unveiling, it was clear that the design of Amazon’s drones is different from the conventional design of today’s standard drone. It’s actually a hexagonal hybrid design that comes with very few moving parts.
There’s a shroud that’s designed to protect the blades of the drone, which act as its wings during takeoff, when transitioning from a vertical, helicopter-like flight at takeoff to its airplane-like mode.
You can expect the drones to be full of different sensors and a complex suite of computing models running different machine learning algorithms to keep the drones, and others nearby, safe. The included sensors include thermal, visual, and ultrasonic sensors all of which were designed in-house. Amazon’s goal with all the sensors is to make its drones as independent and safe as possible.
The drones remind one of TIE fighters when they are flying in airplane mode. And they are capable of flying up to 15 miles which will allow the drones to operate well within the 10-mile radius for the delivery of packages using Prime Air.
Overall, Amazon has managed to design a very futuristic-looking drone that promises to bring about a faster, safer, and more efficient delivery system.
How are Amazon’s Drones Controlled?
Amazon drones are designed to operate independently of human intervention. And that’s why a lot of sensors are installed on the drones. The fact that Amazon designed the actual flight surfaces to be as simple as possible (there are also 6 rotors and four traditional airplane controls) will help the drones fly better.
Since the drones will be flying independent of human intervention, the drones are built with a sophisticated autopilot system. Amazon designed its own autopilot system and it is the autopilot system that will evaluate all the data the sensors are collecting. Also, the drones come with six degrees of freedom allowing them to fly and maneuver their way to the delivery location.
The design of the cargo area is intentionally built to be rigid. This way, the contents of the cargo area is protected since the cargo box isn’t making any movements independent of the drone itself. And it also helps the drones to fly better and smarter. The unique shape of the drones will also help them maneuver better than most conventional drones.
A lot of people have been wondering about the level of noise that the drones will produce. While Amazon hasn’t released specific information about this, the company has assured the public that the noise produced by the drones will be within established safety standards.
While we are not expecting the drone to make any particularly disturbing noise, one can imagine that the noise level will be such that you’ll be aware of the drone as it approaches your home with your package.
Remember we mentioned that these drones will have different sensors and machine learning models installed on them. These systems will be crucial to their navigation. For the visual sensing system, Amazon installed regular and infrared cameras that will provide a view of the drone’s surroundings as it navigates. The drones will also be able to detect objects in both their immediate and far vicinity thanks to the multiple sensors installed on every side. This makes the drones capable of detecting an oncoming plane or a bird, or even other drones.
We also need to talk about the various learning models of Amazon’s drones. The aim of these learning models is to allow the drone to detect and react to new situations. A drone that has never detected an airplane will be able to do so and react accordingly thanks to the machine learning models. Also, the drone will try to delay delivery if it detects an object or person in the designated landing area.
When Will I be Able to Choose Prime Air as a Delivery Option?
Prime Air was originally scheduled to be launched in selected cities and this will still be Amazon’s plan when the service actually kicks off. Amazon will only deploy the Prime Air service when and where the company has the needed regulatory support to implement the service.
Customers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Austria, France, and Israel will be the first to enjoy the Prime Air service as Amazon already has Prime Air development centers ready to go in these countries.
There’s a lot to be excited about Amazon’s drones apart from fast delivery times. There’s also the possibility of reduced delivery fees and ARK Investment Management says it possible for Amazon to charge as low as £1 for drone deliveries.
The drone delivery system also has the potential to make returning products faster and easier as heavy-duty drones will be able to pick up damaged goods and return them. In return, you’ll be refunded faster.
There’s still so much Amazon has to figure out before the program can be implemented, but the drone delivery system is no doubt an innovative system that will redefine delivery services.
Amazon’s Plans for Improved Customer Experience
Amazon is very serious about improving the delivery experience of its customers and has gotten patents for a flying drone warehouse, a beehive-like warehouse, an underwater warehouse, and mobile ground-based fulfillment centers.
Now you know a lot about Amazon’s drones. However, all these plans have been in the works for a while now, and we’re anxiously awaiting implementation. The goal is to shorten the distance between the warehouse and customers and make products available to customers as far away as possible. The drone delivery program has already promised to deliver packages to customers in less than 30 minutes. In the race to launch widespread drone delivery, Amazon filed up to 78 logistics patents in 2016 which is an all-time high for the company. Let’s launch this thing!
Image Source: Amazon.com