It's still not legal to have an autonomous drone deliver a package in the US, but Amazon seems determined to make it happen. Earlier this week at the invite-only MARS 2017 conference held in Palm Springs, an automated drone made a delivery. That drone was part of the Amazon Prime Air fleet, and this counts as the first public demo of the system on US soil.
As explained by The Verge, it was a prearranged delivery and had "the assistance of the FAA," but the message was clear: Amazon wants Prime Air to be a working service within the US. If it does get a green light from the FAA, 30-minute package deliveries will become a reality.
The first Prime Air delivery was carried out in December 2016 when Richard B. of Cambridgeshire, England, received an Amazon Fire TV Stick and some popcorn. But in the US, progress is slow; in 2015, Amazon complained about the FAA dragging its feet on rules and regulations.
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The MARS conference delivery is a positive step forward considering it was a public flight and the FAA is on board. But the video of the delivery does make it clear Prime Air will be quite a restricted service. Unless Amazon intends to use larger drones, the range of products offered for autonomous air delivery will be severely limited by size and weight. You'll be able to get an Echo Dot, but could it handle a full-size Echo? Amazon states Prime Air drones can carry up to five-pound loads, but until the service is approved the legal carry weight is yet to be determined.
The drone delivery counts as the second surprise the MARS conference delivered this year. The first was Jeff Bezos channeling Sigourney Weaver and piloting a giant mecha on stage. Maybe by next year Amazon Prime Air will be a working service and Bezos will be walking around the conference in that mecha suit.
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