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Amazon ‘Prime Air’ to Take Off in California


Amazon Prime Air on cell phone | Image by Shutterstock

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Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that the company was developing 30-minute drone deliveries on 60 Minutes close to a decade ago. At the time, Bezos stated that the service would not be available until at least 2015. Now, nearly 10 years after its first announcement, Amazon’s Prime Air service is almost ready.

Amazon stated in a blog post that it would begin making drone deliveries in Lockeford, California, later this year.

“Lockeford residents will soon have access to one of the world’s leading delivery innovations,” said California State Assemblyman Heath Flora in the Amazon post. “It’s exciting that Amazon will be listening to the feedback of the San Joaquin County community to inform the future development of this technology.”

According to Amazon, the company’s drones will carry “thousands” of items directly to Lockeford area customers as part of the pilot program.

“Their feedback on Prime Air, with drones delivering packages in their backyards,” Amazon said, “will help us create a service that will safely scale to meet the needs of customers everywhere.”

Before drones can take off, Amazon must obtain Part 135 certification from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Amazon will be the third company to receive a Part 135 air carrier certificate from the FAA to operate a commercial drone delivery service, following UPS’ Flight Forward and Alphabet’s Wing, Fox Business reports.

The company did not state what products will be available through the service but did say those details will likely be released soon.

Amazon has spent the last decade developing an “industry-leading” navigation system to allow its drones to avoid static and moving objects.

Creating that system has not been without difficulties — five of the company’s drones crashed over four months in 2021, according to Bloomberg News.

Nevertheless, the announcement suggests that Amazon is confident enough in the system to start using it in the real world.

“Using this system, our drone can identify a static object in its path, like a chimney. It can also detect moving objects on the horizon, like other aircraft, even when it’s hard for people to see them,” the company said.

“If obstacles are identified, our drone will automatically change course to safely avoid them. As our drone descends to deliver the package into a customer’s backyard, the drone ensures that there’s a small area around the delivery location that’s clear of any people, animals, or other obstacles,” it added.

According to Amazon, getting the Prime Air service off the ground is the first step toward building a more complex drone service.     

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