Amazon is excited, even if the U.S. government is, so far, unmoved. Last weekend, just in time for Cyber Monday, the e-retailer released this video below of a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, which could be part of its future delivery system to get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.
In the video, the aircraft is shown delivering a pair of sneakers to a lawn in front of a typical American suburban home. The service, Amazon Prime Air – which has yet to launch and is still not cleared to fly in many countries – already has centers in the U.S., the U.K. and Israel.
The boxy new prototype drone, which looks a bit more like a fixed-wing aircraft than the standard quad- or hexacopter, is capable of transporting a 5-pound parcel a distance of 15 miles using sense-and-avoid technology, so that it can be operated out of line-of-sight, Amazon said. This latest UAV is a hybrid, with the vertical lift capability of a helicopter, and the horizontal capabilities of an airplane. Amazon has more than a dozen prototypes of drones that have been developed, which the company said will evolve over time.
Amazon is eager to get delivery drones in the air, lobbying the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to drop the line-of-sight requirement for operation of UAVs. This past July, at the NASA-AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International) Unmanned Traffic Convention, 2015, Amazon proposed dividing airspace into fine layers, so drones can fly without human interface in their own slice of airspace, between 200 and 400 feet above the ground for high-speed delivery drones. For low-speed drones, such as those used for surveying and photography, their slice of airspace would be below 200 feet. The airspace between 400 and 500 feet would be a no-fly zone, for use by UAVs in emergency situations only. Airspace above 500 feet is for civil and military aviation.