Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tweeted on Wednesday December 7th, 2016, that Amazon had successfully completed its first drone delivery as part of its Prime Air initiative. The package was delivered to a customer in the Cambridge area of England on that date, and made it to the person’s house just 13 minutes after the order was placed.
In a video describing the trial, Amazon (AMZN, +0.38%) says that trial customers around Cambridge are able to choose from “thousands of items” from its online store that are in stock at a Prime Air fulfillment center near their homes. Amazon employees place the ordered products into a Prime Air box and place it inside the drone. The electric drone then moves across a track outside the fulfillment center, and once all safety checks are completed by a person, they take off. According to Amazon, the drones take off, deliver products, and return on their own with no human involvement.
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On the trip, the drones, using GPS to find their way, fly at no higher than 400 feet. Amazon is promising drone delivery within 30 minutes.
The idea for drone delivery through Prime Air was announced by Bezos in 2013. Since then, Amazon has been working with regulators to start testing the service, which could eventually see drones replace delivery services from traditional logistics companies.
Amazon relies heavily on the likes of UPS and FedEx to deliver packages to customers. And in recent years, Amazon has shown some interest in reducing its reliance on third-party companies to deliver packages. The move could ultimately save Amazon on shipping costs.
There are some limitations to a rapid Prime Air rollout. For one, most regulators around the world still have not yet finalized safety regulations on drones that would ultimately impact how Amazon could operate its service. And since drones can only travel so far, Amazon will need to establish strategically placed logistics buildings around the world to accommodate orders.
Moreover, Prime Air drones can currently only carry packages of five pounds or less, leaving many of the items Amazon sells unable to be shipped by the method.