Amazon plans to launch drone delivery in California this year

Amazon plans to start delivering some parcels by drone to homes in several Northern California communities this year, the company said on Monday.

Residents of the San Joaquin County farm towns of Lockford and Acampo, and parts of Lodi, will be able to order “thousands of everyday items” online and expect a drone to deliver them to their backyard in less than an hour, Av Zammit said. , an Amazon representative.

Amazon Prime Air drones can carry packages up to 5 pounds, such as beauty and beauty products, office and tech supplies, batteries and household items, Zammit said.

The company is building a facility in Lockford where drones will be launched from.

Although Amazon Prime Air received certification for commercial transport of goods in 2020, it still requires approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and county officials for its plans in San Joaquin County.

Ever since CEO Jeff Bezos appeared on the 60 Minutes segment in 2013 to announce the e-commerce giant’s ambition to deliver packages by air within four or five years the company was iterating through various drone prototypes, none of which were put into mass production.

With mega warehouses and their truck traffic increasing pollution in places like Inland Empire, drone delivery was mentioned like a way to reduce carbon emissions.

Business Insider reported last year that at least eight Amazon drones crashed during testing; Last summer in Oregon, a drone fell 160 feet and crashed, starting a fire due to engine failure.

According to the company, Amazon’s latest model is a hexagonal propeller-driven aircraft with a “detection and avoidance system” that uses an algorithm to avoid collision with other aircraft, chimneys, people and other potential obstacles.

Customers will need to identify a suitable landing site with an Amazon employee. There, the client will drop a marker that looks like a QR code. The drone will descend about two to three meters above the ground, drop the package and fly away.

The FAA has required human observers to watch the Amazon drones from the moment they take off until they disappear from view. Amazon plans to request the lifting of the precautionary measure.

“Part of that is that you learn as you progress,” Zammit said.

Raja Sengupta, a professor of transportation engineering at UC Berkeley who has worked with drones for nearly 30 years, said autonomous drone technology is mature enough for Amazon Prime Air to work. But given Amazon’s history of testing problems, Sengupta was skeptical about factors like bad weather and moving obstacles like a dog or cat.

“It’s one thing to do it at a university or in testing, and quite another to do it as a sustainable and reproducible product,” Sengupta said.

Amazon’s decision to ditch the delivery drone also raised Sengupta’s concerns. Drones from competitors, such as Alphabet subsidiary Wing or Manna in Ireland, the packages are lowered with a tether while the drone is hovering at a higher altitude.

“The whole thing is more complicated than what the rest of the industry is doing,” Sengupta said.

Amazon plans to expand drone delivery to more densely populated metropolitan areas like Los Angeles.

With a population of about 3,500, a horse and cattle ranch, orchards and vineyards, plenty of open land, and low building density, Lockford was the most feasible first step, according to Zammit.

Rindy Crawford, manager of Ace Hardware in Lockford, was surprised that Amazon chose the countryside for its drone delivery rollout.

“We have one grocery store, two gas stations and a kind of hardware store — we don’t look like Stockton, Lodi or the Bay Area,” Crawford said.

She was worried that the program would crowd out couriers.

“You’re missing out on that human connection, it’s one-on-one,” she said.

Amazon said it would solicit feedback from the community and offer work at its new facility.