More than ten years after the announcement of Prime Air, Amazon is finally offering drone delivery… in two cities in the United States. If all goes as planned, this service should soon be extended to other countries. A small revolution.
This time, that’s it: the first delivery drones ofAmazon finally take off, almost ten years after launching this project and investing two billion dollars in it. Called Prime Air, the service made its first Christmas Eve deliveries to Lockeford, a town of 3,500 in California, and College Station, a town of 120,000 in Texas, as the e-commerce giant had planned. . He finally obtained certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), responsible for regulations and controls concerning civil aviation in the United States, to be able to take off his first drones, which therefore meet safety requirements. To carry out its aerial deliveries, it will use MK27-2 drones, capable of transporting packages of a maximum of 2 kg at a speed of 80 km/h, one hour after the customer’s order. At the moment, only Amazon Prime members can take advantage of this service.
The e-commerce giant subsequently plans to rely on the MK30 drone, which is lighter and less noisy than the current model, while having greater autonomy and being able to fly in light rain conditions, but this won’t be until 2024.”These are careful first steps that we will turn into giant leaps for our customers over the next few years.”said David Carbon, the boss of Prime Air, in a message posted on LinkedIn. This test phase will make it possible to collect consumer opinions and improve the delivery system. Amazon hopes to be able to deploy this device in the long term in other American cities, then in other regions of the world. Suffice to say that delivery by drone in France is not right away!
Amazon Prime Air: state-of-the-art drones
This project has been planned for a long time already, since Jeff Bezos announced it in 2013. But the teams preferred to take their time to create a reliable navigation and detection system in order to obtain an efficient and viable mode of delivery over the long term. term. “The people of Lockeford will play an important role in shaping the future. Their feedback on Prime Air, with drones delivering packages to their backyard, will help us create a service that will safely scale to meet the needs of customers around the world, while adding another step of innovation to the story. aviation in the city“, said Amazon on his blog in June.
The e-commerce giant has taken time to develop its technology so that it can be precise, autonomous and reliable. “Our algorithms use a diverse suite of technologies for object detection. Using this system, our drone can identify a static object in its path, such as a chimney. It can also detect moving objects on the horizon, such as other aircraft, even when it’s hard for people to see them. If obstacles are identified, our drone will automatically change course to safely avoid themexplains Amazon in its press release. Several attempts have already been made, however, without success since five drones have crashed in just four months. A serious incident even occurred in June 2021, causing a forest fire after the explosion of one of the machines.
The firm promises that “thousands of everyday products” will be affected by delivery by drone, but without once again revealing their precise nature. These will be packages that can weigh up to 2.3 kg of products, i.e. the size of a “big shoe box“, which will be transported up to 24 km, before being deposited in the gardens, according to a spokesperson for the group contacted by AFP.
Delivery by drone: a delay that benefits the competition
Amazon’s delay left the field open to its competitors, who were also able to launch their test programs. Thus, the American retail giant Walmart announced at the end of May the extension of the tests of its drone delivery service. It expected to make it available at 34 locations in the United States by the end of the year. The drones will thus be operational in six American states (Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia) with the possibility of reaching up to 4 million homes and ensuring more than 1 million deliveries per year, a specified the company, which is therefore well ahead of Amazon. Walmart customers will be able to order their goods between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. and, for a delivery fee of $3.99 – or 3.75 euros – per order, will have them delivered by drones within half an hour. Each delivery from Walmart will be able to weigh up to 4.5 kg, a weight much higher than that announced by Amazon.
Other competitors have also set out to develop such a service, like Google, which had to suspend deliveries to Australia due to crow attacks. Thus, Wing deployed its own drone delivery service in October 2019 in the American city of Christiansburg, Virginia. After making more than 200,000 commercial deliveries there, it has also expanded to Logan and Canberra, Australia, as well as Helsinki, Finland. This year, the firm has taken a new step by deploying its service in Dallas. In any case, we will still have to be patient before watching the sky to see if the delivery drone arrives in France…