Recently it was announced that Amazon had partnered with the Government of the United Kingdom, as well as the UK Civil Aviation Authority, to gain permission for a drone delivery testing program in rural and suburban areas.
The tests were outlined to the public as being focused on automatic obstacle avoidance through drone sensors, line of sight operation, and semi-autonomous operation with an operator overseeing the flights of multiple drones. This was exciting news not just for Amazon and their customers, but for the drone community as a whole.
It has now been revealed that Amazon’s first drone delivery test was a success, with the company sending a small package to one of their UK test customers in Cambridgeshire.
Big Step Made with a Small Package
This first delivery was completed last year on the 7th of December. The delivery took 13 minutes’ time in total, and the flight was fully autonomous with no human pilot directly controlling the navigation of the drone. Because Amazon’s drone payloads are limited to 5lb. with current custom UAVs, the delivery was made up of only an Amazon Fire Stick (a device for turning any TV into an Amazon Smart TV), and a bag of popcorn. This initial test was very successful, and is part of an ongoing testing program that is still underway today.
What Does Amazon Expect to Achieve with Their Prime Air Service?
The ultimate aim for Amazon is to improve their customer service by reducing delivery times. They will also be able to reduce their reliance on logistics partners, and may even reduce their carbon emissions by using UAVs that run on clean electricity.
However, drones won’t be able to take over all of Amazon’s deliveries. With the weight restriction, drone flights will be limited to small items and electronic goods. Amazon has yet to test in heavily urbanised areas, and it is doubtful whether this would even be feasible, especially in large cities like London. Drones can only operate during daylight hours, and cannot operate in rain or other adverse weather conditions.
Regardless of the limitations and the trial being in the early stages, it is exciting news for the drone community as a whole. With more companies investing in drone technology, new opportunities will be created for innovative engineers and other professionals linked to the development and improvement of drone technologies in the UK and around the world.