The US Doesn’t Want Drone Deliveries — So Amazon Took Them to England
THREE YEARS AFTER CEO Jeff Bezos secured a massive dose of publicity with the announcement that Amazon was working on drone deliveries, that vision is a reality.
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) December 14, 2016
Workers at a British fulfillment center are stuffing shoebox-sized packages—in one case with a Fire TV and some popcorn—and loading them into the belly of electric, quadcopter drones, which set off to the customer. The company claims the drones, guided by GPS and flying below 400 feet, can make deliveries within 30 minutes, from click to plop.
Now for the caveats: The service is currently available to a grand total of two customers, near Cambridge in the south of England, and the drones can only fly in daylight and good weather.
Still, Amazon is using drones to get stuff to paying customers, and it’s doing it in the UK, since even this limited sort of commercial operation is verboten in the US. Because Amazon’s drones are autonomous (no human with a remote control), and fly over the horizon (beyond a human’s line-of-sight), the FAA’s rules for commercial drone operations say they’re unwelcome in US airspace.
Amazon’s not the only drone pioneer buzzing overseas. Domino’s delivered a pizza via drone in New Zealand in August. Maersk Tankers sent supplies to a ship off the coast of Denmark in March. Google’s Project Wing brought snacks to the Australian outback in 2014. California-based Zipline is dropping badly needed blood supplies to remote clinics in Rwanda. UNICEF is working with the government of Malawi to test drones for humanitarian uses. Continue reading about Prime Air.