August 25, 2016


For many years, the traditional van-a-driver highlights the delivery system of online retail stores. You order for a package and a van driver will deliver it to you at your doorstep. This method of delivery is slow as it takes days for packages to get delivered. Also, it is ineffective in places that are nonmotorable. With a view to solving these problems,, an American e-commerce store, surprised many people when it announced its plans to start delivering packages by automated drones. The company believes that drones, which are autonomous, can deliver packages quickly to places that are not roadable. A large number of people saw the announcement as a mere marketing stunt. Later in December of the same year, the online retailer released a video showing the prototype of one of its automated flying delivery vehicles which shares features with both helicopters and airplanes. The new delivery technology, according to the online retailer, is dubbed Amazon Prime Air

The e-commerce explained some of the features of the Prime Air technology. They are as follows: 

  • Delivering of customers' packages within 30 minutes of them making their orders online at
  • A delivery range of over 10 miles
  • Each drone will weigh about 55 pounds
  • They will be able to deliver parcels that weigh up to five pounds, which make up 90% of Amazon's sales
  • The drone will deliver the ordered package to a customer's doorstep or wherever the customer wants in his yard, just like the UPS truck delivery service
  • Each drone will be designed to suit different kinds of delivery circumstances (such as environmental conditions, building varieties) differently.
  • A sense and avoid technology will be embedded in each drone to enable them see and avoid obstacles.
  • The UAVs will use multirotor miniature unmanned vehicle technology to deliver individual packages. 

To avoid crashes of their model aircraft with manned aircraft, the company proposed a kind of airspace design to airspace regulators around the world. In the proposed design, manned flying machines are to be flown above 500 feet in airspace, while unmanned vehicles are to fly within 200-400 feet. However, the proposal suggested 400-500 feet to be the non-fly zone for all aircraft as a safety buffer, while certain drone operators can be flown below 200 feet. The corporation believes the proposed design will make the airspace safe for all kinds of aircraft. 

In July this year, the company announced that it would partner with the British government to run tests exploring the viability of delivery of small parcels by drone. According to them, the test aims at ensuring that its drone delivery technology do not adversely affect other airspace users. The test will explore three key areas, viz:

  • Operations beyond line of sight
  • Obstacle avoidance 
  • Flights where one person operates multiple autonomous drones. 

The success of the innovation is threatened by its high cost and the absence of laws legalizing and regulating commercial drones in countries like the USA, where the company has a large percentage of its customers. The e-commerce giant, however, believes they might not carry out the delivery service in the USA pending the time the FAA will legalize flying of commercial drones in the country's airspace. 


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