Retailer Amazon has been given governmental approval to begin testing delivery drones in the UK as part of its Prime Air program.
This trial will have to overcome three of the main stumbling blocks of the drone delivery plan:
1. The operation of drones beyond the line of sight of the operative
2. Stopping the drones from bumping into things
3. The provision for one pilot to be responsible for several drones simultaneously
I would also add the fact that these could be open to being targeted by ne’er-do-wells with catapults, butterfly nets or air rifles.
While several devices are being tested, the current front-runner is the helicopter-aeroplane hybrid.
As it has vertical take off and landing (VTOL) skills, the craft will be able to safely deposit your order in your back garden. The hope is that orders will arrive in as little as 30 minutes after being placed.
Current rules require that drone operators maintain a visual link with their craft, and that they must stay below 40ft. There is also understandable nervousness about the idea of camera-equipped drones. No one wants to look around to see a drone peering through the curtains do they? This might lead Amazon to have to use some kind of sensor-based solution.
Amazon’s Paul Misener said in a statement:
Using small drones for the delivery of parcels will improve customer experience, create new jobs in a rapidly growing industry, and pioneer new sustainable delivery methods to meet future demand… The UK is charting a path forward for drone technology that will benefit consumers, industry and society.”
The government appears keen for a drone-based delivery infrastructure to be available to all businesses. UK law in this area is currently more flexible than elsewhere in the continent.