Amazon Prime Air Reveals Newest Drone Design

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It’s been more than five years since Amazon CEO’s, Jeff Bezos, appeared on CBS’ 60 Minutes to reveal the idea for Amazon Prime Air, the company’s delivery-by-drone initiative, and this week, the e-retail giant offered a glimpse at the very latest Prime Air design.

At Amazon’s re:MARS Conference in Las Vegas, the company unveiled a design for a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) electric drone that is “fully shrouded for safety” and is aerodynamic “like an airplane,” according to a blog from Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer.

The blog underscores the drone’s focus on safety by incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) features: It uses “diverse sensors and advanced algorithms” for detect-and-avoid capabilities during flight and “stereo vision in parallel with sophisticated AI algorithms trained to detect people and animals from above” during descent for delivery.

Wilke also points out the environmental impact of Prime Air, which will help Amazon achieve the goals of Shipment Zero, the company’s vision for net-zero-carbon Amazon deliveries. Amazon has a goal of achieving 50% net-zero shipments by 2030.

“When it comes to emissions and energy efficiency, an electric drone, charged using sustainable means, traveling to drop off a package is a vast improvement over a car on the road,” Wilke writes. “Today, most of us run to the store because we need an item now. With a service like Prime Air, we’ll be able to order from home and stay home. This saves tremendously on fuel usage and reduces emissions.”

According to the blog, Amazon expects the new drones to fly for up to 15 miles and make deliveries (of packages under 5 lbs.) to customers in less than half an hour.

“And, with the help of our world-class fulfillment and delivery network,” the blog adds, “we expect to scale Prime Air both quickly and efficiently, delivering packages via drone to customers within months.”

In December 2016, Amazon Prime Air executed its first customer delivery through a private beta project in the U.K. More on Amazon Prime Air’s previous efforts over the years can be read here.

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