Amazon has been talking about using drones to deliver packages for a couple of years, and today it debuted the drone in a commercial starring Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson, who explained how the company will get packages from their warehouses to your front yard.
The hybrid drone looks different from that first image Amazon had put together: an orange, white and blue aircraft, it takes off vertically and can fly to an elevation of just under 400 feet.
Clarkson notes that there’ll be a range of different drone types, to work in different environments, and presumably, to carry heavier payloads and to go further than the initial range of 10 or so miles.
The service appears to be simple: if you’re in range, you can order a product through their website or app: the order will go to a warehouse, which will package it up and load it aboard a drone, which will then take off for your address. The drone will alert you when the delivery is coming close for you to lay out a drone target for it to land and deploy its package.
Amazon also highlights the drone’s ability to ‘sense and avoid’ obstacles, such as other flying vehicles and objects in one’s yard. PrimeAir isn’t something that the company is going to roll out yet: Amazon still needs to figure out the regulatory environment. There’s been some movement on that front, with the FAA beginning to propose rules for drone operations.
That said, some of these requirements are a headache for the retailer: while Amazon has designed the drones to weigh less than 55 lbs, they will need to contend with other points, such as remaining close to operators, and not operating over populated areas.
While the announcement doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to click a button and get whatever you want in 30 minutes, it does show that Amazon is developing the infrastructure to begin these sorts of rapid deliveries.
It also reinforces Amazon’s ecosystem: Amazon Prime subscribers (or some additional subset of Prime subscribers) will have access to the service, which will allow the company to bypass parts of the established delivery industry. The company also has Jeremy Clarkson, shilling for the service, just months after announcing that they’ll be picking up the actor’s car show after he was fired from the BBC.
Don’t get excited yet: this is a service that has a bunch of hurdles to go through before it’s viable, and even then, before it can be widely deployed to the rest of the country. But, it’s a sign that Amazon’s been taking the idea seriously, and it’s clear that it’s no longer a pipe dream.