Amazon’s redesigned Prime Air delivery drone is a plane-helicopter hybrid

A drone program taking flight

Amazon.com, an American multinational company based in Washington, is now thinking about delivering the packages to customers even faster. It has unveiled the latest version of its Prime Air delivery drone.

The internet retailer has recently revealed a revolutionary new drone design which is a part helicopter and part science-fiction aircraft. The Prime Air drone is a next-generation electric drone that is able to tackle some of the challenges the autonomous courier faces.

This new fully electric drone is now a ‘hybrid design’ that can take off and land vertically like a typical helicopter drone but has aerodynamics more like that of a fixed-wing aircraft. Additionally, it transitions easily from vertical-mode to airplane mode, and back to vertical mode.

The drone includes advances in efficiency, stability and, most importantly, in safety. It’s fully shrouded for safety. The shrouds are also the wings, which makes it efficient in flight.

It operates on six degrees of movement instead of four, and hence it is overall more stable, and capable of operating safely in more gusty wind conditions. Artificial Intelligence also plays a crucial role in safety.

The new drone uses a combination of thermal cameras, depth cameras, and sonar to detect hazards. With the help of machine learning models, onboard computers can automatically identify obstacles and navigate around them. A customer’s yard may have clotheslines, telephone wires, or electrical wires. Wire detection is one of the hardest challenges for low-altitude flights. But using the computer-vision techniques the team is able to give a drone the ability to recognize and avoid wires as they descend into, and ascend out of, a customer’s yard.

The company claims for the finished Prime Air service is to create “fully electric drones that can fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes.” This may sound like a small payload, while according to Amazon, 75 to 90 percent of purchased items are under that weight limit.

It is also hoping drones will not only deliver packages faster but reduce the firm’s environmental impact by encouraging people to stay at home. The company’s vision to make all Amazon shipments net zero carbon, with 50% of all shipments net zero by 2030.

It is not mentioned when you could expect broadly available service, and that’s still highly dependent on regulators clearing the way for delivery drones. Also, the drone still has to tackle several hurdles like the irritation of drone noise or the challenges of flying in the rain.

REFERENCEDay One

See stories of the future in your inbox every morning.

MUST READ