UK stages Amazon’s first drone delivery

Retail giant Amazon has made its first commercial delivery using a drone, in the UK. The company claims the package arrived safely at its destination in Cambridge, 13 minutes after being ordered. A promotional video (below) showing the process details how the order was completed using an electrically powered drone flying at up to 122m.

Amazon first announced its intention to deliver packages by drone in 2013. At the time, Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, suggested that the company would begin delivery in 2018. The latest limited trials suggest that Amazon still intends to hit that target, albeit by sidestepping many of the concerns around theft, liability and safety, through the limited nature of the rollout.

The safety of drones has been a big talking point this year with reports of near-misses between drones and aircraft at London Stansted and Cornwall Airport Newquay.

Amazon says safety is its top priority, adding that its drones are currently permitted to operate only during daylight hours when there are low winds and good visibility, but not in rain, snow or icy conditions.

As yet, the Amazon Air service is only available to two customers who live near to Amazon’s fulfilment centre in Cambridge, but will be expanded in the future. The delivery took place on 7 December, although it was only revealed on 14 December.

The Cambridge fulfilment centre is home to the drones, which, once the ordered package is on board, travel along an automated track to the launch area. The drones then take off and fly completely autonomously, guided by GPS to their destination and are capable of carrying items weighing up to 2.7kg.