Amazon has started to use drones to deliver small parcels to customers in the UK countryside.
The US tech giant announced on Wednesday that it has successfully used drones to deliver items to two customers in the Cambridge area through its “Prime Air” program, adding that it plans to start offering drone deliveries to hundreds of customers in the coming months.
“We’ve started a new private trial in the Cambridge area of England, and on December 7, we completed our first delivery,” an Amazon representative said in a YouTube video announcing the news.
“We will use the data gathered during this beta test and the feedback provided by customers to expand the private trial to more customers over time. We’re starting with two customers now, and in the coming months we’ll offer participation to dozens of customers living within several miles of our UK facility. And then growing to hundreds more.” The company went on to say that “the sky’s the limit”.
Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, announced the news on Twitter, saying that the company’s first ever drone delivery took 13 minutes from click to delivery.
Amazon has been quietly testing its delivery drones at a secret site on a guarded farm just outside Cambridge, which was first identified by Business Insider in August.
The video shows that Amazon has converted the test site into what it’s calling its first Prime Air fulfilment centre.
“These modest looking buildings contain innovative Prime Air technology,” the Amazon spokesperson says in the YouTube video. “Moments after receiving the order, an electrically powered Amazon drone makes its way down an automated track and then rises into the sky with the customer’s package on board.”
Amazon is currently allowing customers in the trial to order tech gadgets like the Amazon Fire tablet and dog biscuits but it plans to store thousands of items in fulfilment centres in the future.
First-ever #AmazonPrimeAir customer delivery is in the books. 13 min — click to delivery. Check out the video: https://t.co/Xl8HiQMA1S pic.twitter.com/5HGsmHvPlE
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) December 14, 2016
Amazon’s autonomous drones, which are guided by GPS, can fly at heights of up to 400ft and carry packages up to 5lbs, according to Amazon. Amazon has also said on previous occasions that its drones will be able to fly at speeds of up to 50mph.
The video shows a quadcopter-style drone that Amazon has not yet shown to the world. On Amazon’s Prime Air page, the company writes: “We are testing many different vehicle designs and delivery mechanisms to discover how best to deliver packages in a variety of operating environments.” It adds: “The look and characteristics of the vehicles will continue to evolve over time.”
Amazon’s tests in the UK have been endorsed by the UK government, which announced in July that it is giving the Seattle-headquartered company permission to operate drones “beyond line of sight”.
An email chain between Amazon and the Civil Aviation Authority, the UK’s drone regulator, revealed the extent of the relationship when it was published off the back of a freedom of information request.
Here is the full video from Amazon:
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