For Americans who want their Amazon orders in just 30 minutes, chief executive Jeff Bezos hopes he will soon be able to deploy an armada of mini-drones to drop small packages at their doorsteps.
The US online retail giant’s revolutionary project still needs extra safety testing and federal approval, but Bezos believes Amazon Prime Air will be up and running within four to five years.
“These are effectively drones but there’s no reason that they can’t be used as delivery vehicles,” Bezos said on Sunday.
“I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not. We can do half-hour delivery,” he said, and the mini-drones could handle parcels up to 2.3kg, “which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver”.
A video on the company’s website shows a prototype drone. The body of the device is about the size of a flat-screen monitor; it is attached to eight small helicopter rotors and sits on four tall legs.
The claws under the belly of the “octopeter” then latch onto a standard-sized plastic bucket that rolls down a conveyer belt at Amazon’s fulfilment centre. Inside the bucket is the order.
The drone lifts off and whizzes into the air like a giant mechanical insect to deliver the package just 30 minutes after clicking the “pay” button on Amazon.com.
The mini-drones can cover areas within a 16km radius of fulfilment centres, thus covering a significant portion of the population in urban areas. – Sapa-AFP