Amazon is taking steps to complete a long-delayed drone delivery project. The company announced that it will launch a delivery drone service in Lockford, California, later this year after receiving the green light from the Federal Aviation Administration.
If it passes regulatory approval, it would mark a major milestone for the company, which has been promising air parcel delivery for nearly a decade.
The company has faced some major setbacks, including a slew of incidents, reports of vulnerabilities, and resignations. But the new announcement indicates that Amazon is confident that Prime Air is ready.
Amazon says Lockford residents will be the first to receive Prime delivery packages delivered to their backyard by drone later this year.
There are thousands of items eligible for delivery via drones. But Amazon did not specify what type of items can be ordered.
It makes sense that there is some kind of weight limitation, because most drones can only carry a few kilograms of cargo.
Amazon says it is developing technology to improve obstacle avoidance, both on the ground and in the air. And it works to enable its drones to operate beyond the visible line of sight, a technical term that describes the operation of drones at distances outside the normal visible range of a pilot.
But drone delivery companies must be FAA approved, as do companies that fly commercial planes.
This means a Part 135 certification from the agency, which enables companies to operate a delivery service via commercial drones. Amazon has Part 135 approval, along with Wing and UPS.
Amazon is trying to get rid of some recent setbacks
An Amazon spokesperson said: “The FAA is reviewing our plans and confirming that our proposed operation at Lockford is in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.
And the company’s former CEO, Jeff Bezos, first announced 30-minute deliveries by drone in 2013.
In 2019, the company reviewed a redesign of the Prime Air delivery drone, which is capable of flying vertically. It also hinted at the launch of drone deliveries later that year. But it does.
The program has faced problems in recent years. This included five incidents over a four-month period at the company’s test site in Pendleton, Oregon.
According to some former employees, the program has been accelerated, and the company has fired employees who raised safety concerns.
Deliveries by drone were supposed to revolutionize the movement of goods around cities.
Companies such as Amazon, Wing and Uber have promised large-scale operations in the near future. But the technology has instead focused on small trials and delivering vaccines and blood to remote sites.
Drone deliveries in the United States have been limited to smaller towns, where land routes are less congested and complex.