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Tuesday, 03 December 2013 17:56

Amazon Primes drone program Featured

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The world's largest online retailer, Amazon, has begun testing unmanned delivery drones delivering packages to customers within 30 minutes of their order.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has told 60 Minutes that drones, dubbed Octocopters, could deliver packages weighing up to 2.3kg to customers within 30 minutes of them placing the order.

The service will be called Prime Air and comes as Amazon is looking to improve its efficiency to boost growth.

Amazon also posted a video on its website showing a drone picking up a package from one of its warehouses and delivering it to the doorstep of a customer's house. He said that the service could take up to five years for the service to start, however.

"I know this looks like science fiction, but it's not," Bezos told 60 Minutes.

"We can do half-hour delivery... and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds (2.3kg), which covers 86% of the items that we deliver."

Check out a video of the drone in action:

The BBC has reported that the US Federal Aviation Administration is yet to approve the use of unmanned drones for civilian purposes, which might mean a potential roadblock.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to bar operation of unmanned aircraft flying a computerized flight path instead of being controlled by a person, according to an agency document released on 7 November outlining plans for integrating the vehicles into the nation’s airways.

Small drones, like the one used by Bezos on CBS’s 60 Minutes news programme, are expected to have separate rules requiring they be flown within sight of an operator and only in unpopulated areas.

“It may take a decade for the FAA and the unmanned aircraft industry to craft workable rules that ensure the safety and reliability of autonomous drones that deliver pizza and books,” John Hansman, an aeronautics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has studied drones, said in an interview.

“In the early stages of such delivery systems, costs will be so high that drones will only be practical for task such as dispatching emergency medical supplies,” Hansman said.

“You have to have appropriate controls,” he said. “You don’t want to create safety problems. But the technology will advance. These things will get extremely reliable.”

The US' Federal Aviation Administration grants permission to use drones, but it currently does not offer licenses for drones used for commercial purposes, while Zookal, an Australian textbook rental company, announced earlier this year that it would start using drones to make deliveries from 2015 if approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Australian law allows the use of unmanned aircraft for commercial use.

Drones are  being increasingly used for non-traditional purposes including journalism, hurricane hunting and 3D printing.


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