Amazon has been in discussions with the Government to begin trials of its Prime Air delivery service using drones in the UK.
Transport Minister Robert Goodwill revealed he had been approached by executives from the online retail giant because of the firm’s frustrations with regulations in the United States.
“I had some people from Amazon coming to see me the other day; they want to replace van deliveries with drone deliveries and they can’t do any trials in the US because they’re over-regulated,” he said at a press conference for driverless cars when asked about the Government’s role in embracing wider technology.
“So my favourite word is deregulation, and we need to make sure that wherever you are in the world, and if you want to innovate and you want to invest in this sort of technology, come to the UK because we’re here to help you.”
Speaking afterwards he said the Government is “working with Amazon and working on the whole issue of drones… We’re meeting with the British Airline Pilots Association and we’re both keen to innovate.”
Amazon already has a drone R&D lab in Cambridge where it began tests last November. The company is likely to continue investing in research outside its home country despite the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US last week finally approving Amazon’s plan to begin testing drones for online deliveries – eight months after the firm made the request.
Paul Misener, Amazon’s VP of Public Policy, warned at the Senate subcommittee on Unmanned Aircraft Systems last week that the US that it faced being left behind in developing state of the art technology.
He said the company had waited to long for the FAA to act and that other countries had taken much more “reasonable” approaches, recognising the potential economic benefits of commercial drone operations
Prime Air aims to deliver packages within 30 minutes by flying drones below 500ft. Mr Misner said the use of drones would increase overall safety as it would mean fewer consumers driving to the shops and a reduction in delivery trucks on the road.
7 best drones
7 best drones
1/7 AR Parrot Drone 2.0
A stunning alternative to the more expensive models, this can be controlled by simply tilting your phone forwards or back. Intuitive and versatile it can record HD footage from below as well as in front. Great fun for a hot day in the park, to the extent that I nicknamed our review unit ‘Arthur’. £290, amazon Elite Edition Indoor Hull Sand - £40, amazon
2/7 Hubsan Q4 Nano Quadcopter
Weighing in at under 12g, this tiny quad is like a dragonfly as it zips about. Hover around the living room, or be chased by the cat, as you perform acrobatic ‘flips’. Flight time is a meagre 5 minutes but you can charge it easily using the USB cable. Great for kids, just watch out for any glassware. £28, firstpersonview.co.uk
3/7 DJI FirstPersonView Phantom 2 Vision+
It might be an expensive choice but the Phantom 2 Vision+ can stream live video to your smartphone or tablet. The built-in camera can record HD video at 1080p and is attached to a 3-axis gimbal to stabilise the image. Even better, it can fly for up to 25 minutes and can even be tracked using the radar feature on an app on your phone. £712, firstpersonview.co.uk
4/7 Quadcopter with LEDs
This six-axis quad can fly from between 10- and 15-minutes and features LED lighting so you can track it in the dark. It’s great fun, on the cheap, with four rotors to ensure a stable flight. It’s a bit more advanced than your basic model and recommended for people who at least have some history of flight. £55, red5.co.uk
5/7 Hubsan H107D X4 Mini Quadcopter
Fly around the house for seven minutes with this little beast. You can record footage using the in-built camera to store video onto a micro-SD card. Ideal for any newcomer, these quads need much less space to fly in. Charges via USB. £100, amazon
6/7 Parrot Rolling Spider
Another fun one, the rolling spider turns on automatically when thrown. It has two wheels, too, so you can roll along the floor and up walls. They even absorb some of the impact if the engine cuts out, so you don’t have to worry so much about damaging the device. Can reach up to 11mph. £82, amazon
7/7 DJI Phantom FC40 Quadcopter
A slightly cheaper version of the expensive Vision Plus, this one only has records in 720p. However its features are still futuristic, including the ability to fly home to its start location if it loses signal, or the battery goes too low. Approximately 12 minutes of battery per charge. £349, amazon
Operating drones for commercial purposes is illegal under US law. However it is allowed in the UK if permission is granted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It has laid out guidelines for drone users that specify that unmanned aircraft must always be flown within the “line of sight” of the pilot, which it generally measures at 1,600ft horizontally and 400ft vertically.
This remains a stumbling block for Amazon and other companies as it means they would only be able to deliver items within 1,600ft of their warehouses. Chinese internet giant Alibaba is also currently carrying out its own private trials of drone technology for deliveries.
A spokesman for Amazon said: “We are working with regulators and policymakers in many countries in order to make Prime Air a reality for our customers as soon as possible. Putting Prime Air into service will take some time, but we will deploy when we have the regulatory support needed to realize our vision.”Reuse content