By Polly Chen
Drone delivery has been quite a hot topic in logistics lately. Drones are a fast and convenient solution for delivering goods in dense urban areas and the remote countryside.
Amazon has been teasing for a while about soon using drones to deliver goods. And they recently unveiled their new “hybrid” drones for deliveries.
Plus, any company that wants to launch commercial drones in the U.S. needs to comply with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. But Amazon says all the components of its new drones are designed with FAA regulations in mind.
The company expects these new drones can be used for test deliveries in the next few months.
Amazon’s futuristic drones will take flight “within months”
After staying quiet for over a year, Amazon announced its new drones for its Prime Air service on June 5th. Amazon’s blog said the company expects the new Prime Air drones to join Amazon’s existing delivery army within months.
The new drone can fly 15 miles with small packages that weigh no more than five pounds. And it can deliver goods to the customer in just 30 minutes. Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s Worldwide Consumer CEO, explained the drone’s hybrid design:
It can do vertical take-offs and landings – like a helicopter. And it’s efficient and aerodynamic – like an airplane. It also easily transitions between these two modes, from vertical mode to airplane mode, and back to vertical mode.
The new Prime drone has just 10 moving parts, including six propellers and four control surfaces. The device also has a six-sided shroud that can protect people from the propellers and can serve as a high-efficiency wing.
The drones are also equipped with thermal cameras, depth cameras and sonar technology to detect hazards. The machines can transfer the real-time data to onboard computers. The computers can then analyze the data and automatically identify obstacles and navigate around them.
Wilke is confident about this technology, saying “From paragliders, power lines, to the corgi in your backyard, this drone has safety covered”. The drones are designed to maintain stability even in gusty wind conditions.
Amazon hopes the new drones will help them meet its massive one-day shipping goal. The drones are also part of Amazon’s Shipment Zero program, an initiative for net zero carbon shipments.
Drones must fly under FAA regulations
Delivery drones aren’t widely available for U.S. customers yet because of the need for regulatory approval from the FAA. It can take years for traditional aircraft manufacturers to get U.S. FAA approval for new designs.
The FAA has several requirements if you want to use drones for commercial deliveries, such as:
- Register your drone when flying under Part 107
- Label your drone with your registration number
- Get your Remote Pilot Certificate
But the FAA has recently considered loosening restrictions for commercial drones in the U.S, including for night delivery permits. Amazon’s competitor, Google’s Wing, became the first FAA-approved drone to carry packages in the U.S. last April.
Although Amazon was one of the only drone companies that wasn’t chosen for a government-sponsored test last year, their new drones are compliance ready. Gur Kimchi, who heads Amazon’s engineering team that developed the aircraft, said:
This aircraft was designed with compliance in mind… this is an airplane that’s built to exacting aerospace standards.
Amazon hasn’t confirmed where their new drone deliveries will take place. But an FAA regulator told BBC that they have issued “a Special Airworthiness Certificate to Amazon Prime to train in authorized areas”.
Follow the link below to learn more about Amazon’s futuristic delivery drones.
Amazon Unveils Futuristic Helicopter-Plane Hybrid Drone for Deliveries – Alan Levin, Bloomberg
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Polly Chen is a Client Manager at InTouch Manufacturing Services, a QC firm that performs product inspections and factory audits in Asia for clients in the US, EU and Australia.