Amazon developing unmanned drones for parcel delivery

Amazon is developing unmanned drones to deliver parcels as it seeks to cut delivery times and improve the convenience of online shopping. 

CEO Jeff Bezos, talking to CBS’s 60 Minutes programme, said his firm is testing drone delivery at one of its fulfilment centres in Virginia. The drones, called Octocopters, can deliver packages weighing as much as 2.3kg to customers within 30 minutes of an order being placed, using GPS co-ordinates to fly to the correct address.

“The big idea is half-hour delivery. You order something and within half an hour you can have a drone land on your front porch, drop off a little box and off it goes,” he said.

However, Bezos cautioned that it could be up to five years before the service, called Amazon Prime Air, is operational as Amazon would need a permit from the US Federal Aviation Administration to run the drones. The FAA is yet to approve the use of unmanned drones for civilian purposes, but is expected to open up air space in 2015.

Amazon also needs to advance the technology to ensure its drones adhere to strict safety standards.

Nevertheless, Amazon says it will be ready to begin using drones commercially as soon as the necessary rules are in place. Bezos hopes to trial the scheme in US cities in 2015. It is unclear if the firm would expand the service outside America.

Amazon Prime Air is the most extreme example yet of Amazon’s efforts to win trade from bricks-and-mortar retailers. It already offers same-day delivery, drawing rivals such as Walmart into a race for convenience.

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