After a decade of rigorous planning and development, Amazon announced that it would launch its Prime Air drone deliveries in Lockeford, California, about 40 miles from Stockton, later this year.
The residents of Lockeford will play a significant role in this plan for the future, as they are probably the first batch who will provide them feedback about Prime Air. Drones delivering packages in their backyards will aid Amazon in creating a service that will safely scale to meet customers’ needs at every place in a faster time.
This will eventually add another innovation milestone to Lockeford’s aviation history after Weldon B. Cooke, who built and flew early planes in the early 1900s.
Currently, Amazon is working with FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and local officials in Lockeford to attain permission to perform these test deliveries. This partnership will continue even after the success of drone deliveries in the future.
Prime Air is one of only three drone-delivery companies that went through the stringent procedures to earn an FAA air carrier certificate, which is a requisite when operating such technology-driven drones with advanced capabilities.
After several years of innovating, conceptualizing, designing, testing, and improvising to develop these breakthrough technologies, Amazon is keen to use them to make customer deliveries.
Since the inception of the Prime Air drone, the company has built and flight-tested over two dozen prototypes, including a hexagon-shaped iteration that Amazon shared on YouTube in 2019.
What is so special about Prime Air?
The other drones in the logistics industry primarily cannot detect and avoid other aircraft and obstacles, which could pose problems in real life. But, that’s not the case with Prime Air. Amazon has innovated something of its own that is unique and quite functional.
Prime Air drones have a sophisticated and industry-leading sense-and-avoid system that enables operations to occur without the need for visual observers. Further, the system allows the drone to function at greater distances ensuring safety and reliability by bypassing other aircraft, pets, humans, and obstacles.
The sense-and-avoid system is basically designed for two main scenarios, i.e., safe landing when approaching the ground and when in transit.
When flying to the delivery location, the drone should identify static and moving obstacles. And for that, Amazon has built a few algorithms that use a diverse suite of technologies for object detection. By using this system, the drone can identify a static or motionless object in its way.
Moreover, it can also sense moving objects in its range of motion, like any other aircraft, even when it’s tough for people to see them. If the drone identifies any obstacles, it will automatically change its course to avoid them safely. Then, as and when the drone descends to deliver the package into a customer’s backyard, it will also confirm if there are any people, animals, or other obstacles in the area around the delivery location.
Finally, after years of hard work, the ray of sunshine sparkles brightly, making customer deliveries with drones in real-world environments.
The major reason behind launching such a delivery system was to innovate and offer better and faster deliveries with quality customer service. Amazon had previously launched its Scout Delivery Robot and Zoox autonomous vehicles to curb this challenge.
The Good News
The residents/customers in Lockeford will be finally able to see Prime Air-eligible products on Amazon. It is as simple as placing a standard order and receiving an estimated arrival time with a status tracker for their respective order.
For the delivery, the drone will fly to the specified delivery location, land in the customer’s backyard, and hover at a safe height. Finally, it will safely release the parcel and rise back up again to return.
Amazon has promised to share the images and videos of the testing and progress. So, don’t forget to check them out if this interests you. Also, Amazon’s team is looking forward to continuing learning as they wish to expand this program systematically to attract customers in months and years to come.