Amazon Delivery Drones in UK Skies – Amazon Prime Air

After running into trouble with U.S. authorities, Amazon has decided to test its drone delivery service – Amazon Prime Air – in the United Kingdom.

The company has already tested such drones earlier in the Netherlands and in Canada, and the next set of tests will be conducted in partnership with the UK government. Amazon’s problems with testing back home in the States comes on the back of a recent United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) ruling that prevent Amazon from carrying out such aerial tests in the Homeland.

Amazon has actively been looking at cutting its shipping costs drastically, because this last mile delivery is one of the main things that is keeping them from being consistently profitable.

Not much is known about these drones and how they will operate, but it is clear from the patents granted to Amazon that it will involve a large amount of in-flight communication with other drones.

In practice, the drone will pick up the parcel from a warehouse facility and fly it over to the buyer within 30 minutes. The patents show that they may also “stop over” at certain pre-designated points to either pick up a parcel or recharge themselves.

One operator will essentially be controlling several drones, and part of the problem in the United States is that operating such drones out of the light of sight is considered illegal. It is illegal in the United Kingdom as well, but an agreement has been reached between the UK government and Amazon to allow drone testing in rural and sub-urban areas.

Amazon Prime Air, an exclusive premium service for Amazon Prime customers, will be the beneficiary of this technology once it has been fully tested and considered fit to roll out on a large scale. The nature of the drone deliveries does bring up questions about safety, security and privacy, but Amazon has been working through the details patiently for the past several years.

Such a service could, in the long term, offset their “last mile” delivery costs, which is the most expensive component in the delivery process. Amazon desperately needs to see some savings in this area, and mass use of drones may just be the answer they’ve been looking for.