Amazon starts ‘Prime Air’ drone delivery in California and Texas

‘We are starting in these communities and will gradually expand deliveries to more customers over time’

Vishwam Sankaran
Thursday 29 December 2022 05:37 GMT
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Amazon has started using drones to deliver orders in California and Texas about two years after the company received approval to do so from the US Federal Aviation Administration.

The retail giant has used its new drone delivery service – Amazon Prime Air – to drop packages in its customers’ backyards in Lockeford, California and College Station, Texas in the lead-up to Christmas, ARS Technica reported.

Amazon noted on its website that the new service aimed to deliver packages to customers’ homes within an hour using its hexagonal MK27-2 delivery drone with six propellers.

“Our aim is to safely introduce our drones to the skies. We are starting in these communities and will gradually expand deliveries to more customers over time,” Amazon Air Spokesperson Natalie Banke said, according to KTXL Fox 40 in Sacramento.

Lockeford is a rural town in California located about 50 miles southeast of Sacramento and has a population of about 3,500 people, while College Station, home to Texas A&M University, is 100 miles northwest of Houston.

The company said its drones would fly to the designated delivery location, hover at a “safe height” and “safely” release the package before rising up to altitude.

“Lockeford residents will play an important role in defining the future. Their feedback about Prime Air, with drones delivering packages in their backyards, will help us create a service that will safely scale to meet the needs of customers everywhere,” Amazon had said in a statement earlier this year.

Amazon initially planned to start drone delivery in 2013 but had been unable to meet some of its own targets.

The e-commerce giant received approval to send packages using its drones in 2020 from the FAA, which said drone operations from the locations in Texas and California “would occur during daylight hours up to five days per week”.

“Only one aircraft in each sector can be airborne at any time,” the FAA noted.

Last month, the company said it upgraded its drones to have “increased range, expanded temperature tolerance, and the capability to fly in light rain” – features it hoped would enable customers to choose drone delivery more often.

“We’re now introducing our next generation delivery drone: the MK30. Due to come into service in 2024, this drone will be lighter and smaller than the MK27-2, the drone that will be making deliveries in Lockeford and College Station,” Amazon noted on its website.

However, Amazon’s delivery reportedly may come at a steep cost which the company hoped to reduce in the future.

In April, Insider reported that it costs Amazon at least $484 per delivery made via its Prime Air trial.

But the retail giant hoped the cost of each drone delivery would come down to $63 per package in 2025 – the year when it aims to deliver 1 million packages by drone.

Amazon is also actively working with its engineers to reduce the noise from its drones to ensure its customers are comfortable receiving deliveries via Prime Air.

“Prime Air’s Flight Science team has created new custom-designed propellers that will reduce the MK30’s perceived noise by another 25 per cent. That’s a game-changer, and we’re very excited about it,” the company noted last month.

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