NYT Profiles Amazon Drone Testing Sites in the UK and Canda

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Picture Credit: Amazon’s Prime Air: Last (Few) Mile Delivery or Instant Gratification at a Price ?

This past July, Amazon’s Jeremy Clarkson, formally detailed plans for its drone delivery service, Amazon Prime Air, but started testing it in the UK too.The drone has a 15 mile range, a5 pound payload limit, and uses “Sense & Avoid” technology to avoid obstacles (See video here). DigitalSpy explains, “Topping an altitude of 100 metres and capable of hitting speeds close to 100kph, the drones will have to return to base after each delivery for recharging. Designed as a last resort in the delivery hierarchy – you’re not supposed to use them for every order, just the emergencies – they’re likely to be costly to use.” Multiple drone systems are being tested in the US, Canada and Isreal but they are all likely to be VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) capable and require a customer-sited landing pad with an identifiable beacon or market (possibly equipped with a locator device or digital ID). Maybe service in 2017? The concept of VTOL dates back (at least) to the brilliant inventor, Leonardo da Vinci !

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Picture Credit: Squarespace- Leonardo’s Aerial Screw ca. 1493

From Amazon’s Corporate Site: We’re excited about Prime Air — a future delivery system from Amazon designed to safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using small unmanned aerial vehicles, also called drones. Prime Air has great potential to enhance the services we already provide to millions of customers by providing rapid parcel delivery that will also increase the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation system. Putting Prime Air into service will take some time, but we will deploy when we have the regulatory support needed to realize our vision.

Of course, in the U.S., Amazon is still awaiting regulatory approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA’s UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) policy is now, at least, a framework which was established August 29, 2016. FAA states, ” the following are examples of possible small UAS operations that can be conducted under the framework in this rule:”

  • Crop monitoring/inspection;
  • Research and development;
  • Educational/academic uses;
  • Power-line/pipeline inspection in hilly or mountainous terrain;
  • Antenna inspections;
  • Aiding certain rescue operations;
  • Bridge inspections;
  • Aerial photography; and
  • Wildlife nesting area evaluations.

A Peek at the Secret English Farm Where Amazon Tests Its Drones.(Featured in NYT- 2 October, 2016)

Amazon, the giant e-commerce company, began secretly testing unmanned aircraft this summer at an undisclosed location in Britain (its largest outdoor test site, according to an Amazon executive). I set out to find the top secret site, wanting to see how we all may one day receive online deliveries. There was the warning to pilots that unmanned aircraft would be flying in the area, about an hour north of London, until early October; the uncharacteristically fast cellphone reception in such a remote area — a must when processing drone data; and the growing list of jobs and openings at Amazon’s research and development site in Cambridge related to Prime Air, the company’s ambitious plan to use drones for everyday deliveries.

In Britain, Amazon is working with local authorities to test several aspects of drone technology like piloting the machines beyond the line of sight of operators, a practice still outlawed in the United States. (UK) Regulators first authorized the commercial use of drones in 2010 — years before the Federal Aviation Authority eased its restrictions on remotely piloted aircraft in June. Amazon settled on Britain after the United States initially denied it approval for such tests.

Read more if you like- http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/02/technology/britain-amazon-drone-test-delivery.html?_r=0)

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