December 2, 2013
Amazon Developing ‘Octocopter’ Drones For 30-Minute Package Delivery
Brett Smithfor redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
If receiving items you bought online the next day via mail seems too old fashioned or slow, Amazon has some great news. The Internet retailer is currently testing miniature helicopter drones to deliver its goods to Amazon Prime members in 30 minutes or less.The experimental system, which is still years away from being implemented, was announced by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in a 60 Minutes interview that aired on CBS Sunday night.
“We’re talking about delivery,” Bezos said. “I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not.”
The eight-rotor drones, called octocopters by Bezos, appear to be about as big as a medium-sized dog, according to a video posted on Amazon’s website. They are designed to have about a 10 mile-range, with the capacity to carry packages that weigh up to five pounds, which is approximately 86 percent of packages that Amazon delivers, according to Bezos.
“These generations of vehicles, it could be a 10-mile radius from a fulfillment center,” the Amazon CEO told 60 Minutes reporter Charlie Rose. “So, in urban areas, you could actually cover very significant portions of the population. And so, it won’t work for everything; you know, we’re not gonna deliver kayaks or table saws this way.”
The Amazon video shows a warehouse worker placing an item into a plastic delivery box and sliding that box down a conveyor belt. At the end of the belt, an octocopter grabs the box by plastic handles and flies out of the warehouse door. According to Bezos, the octocopter then uses a GPS navigation system to fly to its destination. In the last scene of the video, the drone is seen dropping off the plastic box on a front stoop before lifting off and flying away.
“I don’t want anybody to think this is just around the corner,” Bezos said. “This is years of additional work from this point. I know it can’t be before 2015, because that’s the earliest we could get the rules from the (Federal Aviation Administration).”
“But could it be, you know, four, five years? I think so. It will work, and it will happen, and it’s gonna be a lot of fun,” he added.
Many are expecting the FAA to start approving countless permits for drones over the coming years. These drones could be used for everything from police surveillance to pizza delivery. In June, Domino’s in the UK posted a promotional video showing an unmanned drone delivering two pizzas.
For now, most of these videos appear to be nothing more than publicity stunts, but the use of drones for delivery in the near future is a very real possibility and could be a game-changer for companies like Amazon. Bezos justified the drone development program by suggesting that Amazon is simply trying to keep pace with modern innovation.
"Companies come and go,” he said. “And the companies that are, you know, the shiniest and most important of any era, you wait a few decades and they’re gone.”