Amazon's ‘octocopter' drones could be making deliveries by 2015

The company is expanding its R&D outpost near Cambridge, possibly hoping to take advantage of the coding and engineering talent from the university

Amazon is bringing its drone delivery operation to England with a new plan to test the aircraft in Cambridge.

The retailer announced last year that its Amazon Air Prime program would use small quadcopters to deliver packages, although many experts dismissed the idea as a marketing gimmick in the run-up to Christmas.

Now, however, it seems that drone delivery programs are being seriously considered by tech companies, even if there will be substantial regulatory and financial hurdles await them.

In August this year Google unveiled its own drone delivery program and their operations in the Australian outback, and in September it was reported that Nasa was looking to create an air traffic control system designed especially to handle the small aircraft.

Whatever the economics of delivery by drone, Amazon is certainly pushing ahead with its R&D lab in Cambridge, looking for engineers and drone experts with five year of “aviation experience, either civilian or military”, according to a report in the Financial Times.

Amazon is slowly its presence in the UK as it seeks to recruit from the country’s pool of scientific and engineering experts. Two years ago it bought Cambridge-based voice recognition start-up Evi Technologies and has since made ‘natural language’ commands a key feature of several products – including the Fire TV and recently-launched Echo speaker.

A spokesperson for Amazon Prime Air said only that the company has “multiple development centers” for its drone operations: “We’re always looking to add great talent to the team; the Cambridge-based Prime Air positions we have open are a reflection of that.”