ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Amazon is finally ready to launch drone delivery, nearly a decade after then-Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos first announced the technology, reports CNBC.
By the end of this year, Amazon will start delivering orders via drone in Lockeford, California, and College Station, Texas. The drone is Amazon’s MK27-2 model and will drop packages from about 12 feet in the air. Weighing 80 pounds and about five-and-a-half feet in diameter, the drone can carry packages weighing under five pounds, and the orders have to fit in one box about the size of a shoe box.
“If the drone encounters another aircraft when it’s flying, it’ll fly around that other aircraft. If, when it gets to its delivery location, your dog runs underneath the drone, we won’t deliver the package,” Calsee Hendrickson, who leads product and program management for the Prime Air drone program, told CNBC.
The drone can travel up to 50 mph once airborne and can fly about 7 miles roundtrip.
“We like to refer to the drone as being independently safe, which means that it has the power to make the decision. It saw something that had a heat signature underneath the drone and was able to not deliver a package and return back to the station. But the drones do have an operator in command that is overseeing the entire airspace,” Hendrickson told CNBC.
Amazon told CNBC that thousands of items are eligible for delivery via drone.
“We’ve made sure that all of those products are both capable of being OK when they are delivered, and our packaging … is a special packaging that ensures that the integrity of the product is still intact after the delivery,” Hendrickson told CNBC.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration granted Amazon approved to operate drone in August 2020. Amazon has been testing drone delivery since 2013, and it made one delivery in 2016, but Amazon has faced high turnover, crashes and safety concerns throughout the testing phase.
Last week, Amazon announced the next drone model, the MK30, will launch in 2024 and is smaller, 25% quieter than the MK27-2 and can fly in light rain.
This summer, Walmart announced the expansion of its DroneUp delivery network to 34 sites in six states by the end the year, reaching up to four million U.S. households to deliver over one million packages by drone each year. Walmart and Amazon join Alphabet and other companies testing drone deliveries in the U.S.
NACS Magazine delved into the idea of drone delivery for convenience stores in the January 2021 feature, “Covering the Last Mile.”