New prototype is ‘part helicopter and part airplane’
Amazon is back with its latest vision for its Prime Air drone delivery system — and this time the company has brought its high-profile celebrity, TV show host and gearhead Jeremy Clarkson, along for the ride. In a slick new ad and FAQ page published today, the company demonstrates what Prime Air could look like if and when regulators approve deliveries by unmanned aerial vehicles.
The ad shows a new prototype model of the Prime Air drone — this one looks larger and quite a bit more custom-tailored to deliveries than the model first shown a couple of years ago. It features two propeller systems: one for vertical takeoff and another for horizontal travel to the destination. In an email, an Amazon spokesperson calls it “part helicopter and part airplane,” adding that the design lets it “fly long distances efficiently and go straight up and down in a safe, agile way.”
“DIFFERENT DESIGNS FOR DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS.”
This isn’t the only drone Amazon is working on. The spokesperson notes that “It is one of many prototype vehicles we have developed” and Clarkson adds in the commercial that “In time, there’ll be a whole family of Amazon drones; different designs for different environments.” In this demo, it appears customers will set up a little landing zone in their backyard that the drone can sense and land on to deliver the package.
The other details of this delivery system remain the same however: Amazon is pushing the FAA to allow it to use airspace below 400 feet to deliver packages weighing less than five pounds to houses 10–15 miles from warehouses. Clarkson is also sure to note the drone’s safety features, which include Amazon’s proposed “sense and avoid” technology. Since there are too many drones for air traffic controllers to handle, such a system would allow drones to theorhetically avoid obstacles and other aircraft on their own.
The whole process from order to delivery is supposed to take less than 30 minutes, but it faces many, many regulatory hurdles before it can become a reality in the US. The company itself notes that “putting Prime Air into service will take some time, but we will deploy when we have the regulatory support needed to realize our vision.” A spokesperson also adds, “One day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road.” It’s likely this highly-produced ad is meant to turn up public pressure on the FAA so Amazon can bring its dream drone delivery system to life.