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How will the Amazon Drone Delivery Work?

It's well over a decade since Amazon launched its Prime delivery service. In fact it was 2007 when the company first introduced us to unlimited next day shipping on what was at the time almost a million products but in 13 years we've seen little change that is until recently many areas now offer same-day delivery but behind closed doors Amazon had been working on an ambitious plan to realize almost instant delivery the goal just 30 minutes from the click of the order now button.

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To the tangible products in our hands every delivery company can agree that the final mile or so of a product's journey is the most expensive as it leaves a shipping container and steps away from the lorries vessel it enters the smallest vehicle yet vans and sometimes cars. Rather than carrying millions of products, a driver can now only carry a few dozen. Employing thousands of drivers comes at incredible cost to shipping companies

Amazon has been toying with the idea of cutting out these final employees with autonomous machines such as the six wheeled scout robot. Its latest venture however has taken to the air testing has been taking place for Amazon's fleet of Drones since 2013 but it wasn't until 2020 that the company received approval from the federal aviation administration to operate a fleet of delivery Drones. The online shopping giant joined the list of companies experimenting with the idea including Wing Aviation owned by Google's parent company, Alphabet and UPS flight forward.

The concept of Drone Delivery is simple but how exactly does it work?

When an order is received at a local fulfillment center, it makes its way through the usual packaging process before finding itself in a special box designed to be carried by one of the company's Drones. After being picked up by one of these, the Drone is carried to an outdoors takeoff spot on a mini rail network. It's not until it's outdoors that the fully electric motors spin into action ready for takeoff ascending vertically the Drone will reach an altitude of less than 400 feet before beginning its journey to the customer's house.

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Just like a self-driving car the Drone houses a number of special sensors to help it understand its surroundings including GPS, Visual Thermal and Sonar detectors. This allows it to paint 3D pictures of the world around it including obstacles on the ground like people, telephone wires and buildings as well as airborne intrusions such as hot air balloons and other Drones. This forms the basis of what Amazon calls sense and avoid technology. When the Drone has arrived at the customer's house it begins to scan for a safe landing spot. We're unsure how this process works but from videos it could work as one of two ways this could involve the Drone assessing a predetermined landing area either set up by the customer or a mapping system or a special map could be placed down by the customer which provides the Drone with a reference point. 


The tech on this map could be as simple as a color-coded symbol for the Drone to read or it could involve a QR code which confirms the correct location. For a more private experience the map may even use a combination of Bluetooth and ultra wideband for pinpoint accuracy although this would have to involve charging the map between uses. It's safe to say we don't know at this point and Amazon could be trying a combination of all these ideas out right now.

What is the Weight Capacity of Amazon Drones?

Currently the weight limit for parcel is set at just five pounds which is 2.3 kilograms which doesn't sound like a lot but Amazon claims more than three quarters of its parcels weigh less than this. Just like cars, various models will be designed for different environments. Some suited to the agile nature of city centres and some suited to the high speed crossing of rural areas. Once the delivery has been successfully made, the Drone returns to the fulfillment center before embarking on another mission. In the event of a collision some believe the Drones will be instructed to dismantle themselves mid-flight because smaller and lighter pieces of debris are less dangerous than a 25 kilogram man-made asteroid heading for an innocent human. Others believe intentional collisions will be forced as crashing into something like a tree will be less catastrophic than somebody's car.

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The current problem is that fulfilment centers inhabit a large area which means they are found in semi-rural areas just outside the city boundaries. This is great for the handful of people who live locally to these warehouses but city dwellers are larger in numbers and generally order more packages online. Amazon's solution patents have already been filed for the fulfilment centre's city dwelling cousins these buildings are expected to resemble bee hives, tall in design and with multiple takeoff and landing zones across the surface. A design similar to the unfavourably named Gherkin in London's financial district could be beneficial allowing it not only to serve as a landmark for Drones to use but with floor space in cities so expensive height is a sensible option not only this it could allow the company to have its own airspace monitoring facility high in the sky just like an airport's air traffic control center.


The potential is huge here; we're talking an Amazon inspired city of course entirely hypothetical for now everything could double its purposes, lamp posts could become charging points for Drones. Rooftops could become waiting areas which could help regulate high demand areas. Public spaces could become drop-off points for people lacking in private outdoor spaces as is the case for many apartments in the city.

The chances of seeing a fully fledged Amazon Drone delivery service anytime soon are very slim however whereas vans navigate a series of roundabouts, traffic lights and junctions on a 2D scale, there's no such traffic management in our urban airspaces which operate on a three-dimensional scale. Don't be disappointed though Amazon is working to realize this dream a very important day for the company was December the 7th 2016. This was the date that its first customer received his first Drone delivered Amazon parcel via Prime Air. From purchase to delivery, the smooth process took just 13 minutes less than half the goal time frame. He was able to choose from thousands of products from his local fulfilment center in Cambridge England and was one of just two customers to be part of the initial trial before it extended to include hundreds more participants.

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To speed up the process Amazon plans to act within the regulations which means less time spent bending the rules. Current US regulations require Drones to fly under 400 feet at speeds of less than 100 miles per hour. Prime Air will operate between 200 and 500 feet at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour within a 10 mile radius of their base stations.

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously described the success of his company was thanks to its obsession over the end-to-end experience from the customer's initial engagement with the website to the arrival of a product. Online tracking and often faster than anticipated delivery times have stunned millions of customers but things are about to get a whole lot better with years of planning under its belt and its huge expertise in online shopping and delivery. We're excited to see Amazon's final solution to deliver thousands of packages in less than 30 minutes but have you ever received a parcel by a robot? If so what was your experience? Comment down below and don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family to give them a glimpse of the future.

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