This week, Amazon has announced that it will partner with the British government to run tests exploring the option of delivering small parcels in the UK by drone.
This will be the first time such tests have been run in the UK, and could pave the way for commercial air deliveries for UK residents. The expanded testing, announced today in a press release, involves Amazon working with the UK Civil Aviation Authority to focus on operating drones outside of the line of site of pilots, improving sensors for obstacle detection and avoidance, and having one pilot operate a team of multiple, semi-autonomous drones in unison.
The experiment will look at drones carrying deliveries weighing 2.3kg (5lb) or less – which make up 90% of Amazon’s sales. During the tests the drones will be limited to an altitude of 400ft (122m) which is the limit for private drone operations. As is also expected, the drones will not be allowed to operate near flight paths and the top priority for the Civil Aviation Authority is that such an air delivery service would not adversely affect other airspace users.
Amazon’s ambitious air-delivery programme, Prime Air, aims to bring cheaper and more forward-thinking delivery logistics for the online retailer. The programme is looking likely to achieve success in the UK before it does so across the pond; where the programme has been given the green light – so long as the drones stay within sight of a pilot. Here in the UK, Amazon has been investing in Prime Air research and development for quite a while, aware of the fact that the UK is the company’s best bet when it comes to enabling drone innovation.
The intention is that if the programme is a success, Amazon will be able to deliver parcels within 30 minutes and in a safe manor, using it’s fleet of drones. The intended-outcome of the UK drone tests is to improve the future-service, as well as to put pressure on the US’s Federal Aviation Authority to relax their strict rules on drone use.