Amazon Air has already been the subject of much discussion in the US, with the retailer announcing its plans two years ago to begin delivering small items by way of unmanned aerial vehicles. Late last year the company unveiled the project as Amazon Prime Air, with Jeremy Clarkson fronting the ad campaign for the new delivery system. Now the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has granted Amazon special permission to begin carrying out tests in the region, granting them the ability to embark upon trial flights with the drones without a pilot maintaining a direct line of sight of their devices, a prerequisite for those operating drones in the region.
The CAA has also lifted another requirement for Amazon, with the company now allowing one pilot to control multiple drones. The drones operate autonomously, with them able to sense and detect their surroundings in order to automatically avoid obstacles, with the CAA using this opportunity to enable the company to fly in controlled zones that will allow them to have a more accurate overview of the safety of the delivery service. The CAA's head of policy Tim Johnson said these tests will help the association "inform our policy and future approach".
The technology behind the drones is being developed in Amazon's research centre in Cambridge, which is where a majority of the trial flights will take place. If successful, Amazon's eventual goal is to have the drones be able to carry out same-day deliveries to members of its Amazon Prime delivery service, with the UAVs able to carry out these deliveries within 30 minutes of an order being placed.
The range of each drone is around 10 miles, meaning that the number of Prime members eligible for the service will likely be more exclusive than the same-day deliveries offered by Amazon's Prime Now service, which sees the company enlisting the aid of civilian drivers to pick up and drop off the company's product to those residing within an eligible area.