Amazon Testing Drone Delivery System
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Amazon's chief executive has revealed that the company is testing a new service involving delivery by mini-drones to get packages to customers in just 30 minutes.
Jeff Bezos appeared on CBS television's 60 Minutes programme in the US where he played a video from their website showing tiny robotic devices, called 'octocopters', picking up items in small yellow buckets and whizzing them through the air.
"I know this looks like science fiction. It's not," Mr Bezos said.
"We can do half-hour delivery ... and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds which covers 86% of the items that we deliver."
The mini-drones are powered by electric motors and could cover areas within a 10-mile radius of fulfillment centres, thus covering a significant portion of the population in urban areas in the US.
The retail giant's ambitious project still requires additional safety testing and federal approval but Mr Bezos estimated that Amazon 'Prime Air', as it would be called, would be up and running in four to five years.
They operate autonomously and drop the items at the target locations thanks to GPS coordinates transmitted to them.
"It's very green, it's better than driving trucks around," said Mr Bezos.
Amazon said the octocopters would be "ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place," noting that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was actively working on rules for unmanned aerial vehicles.
It projected a more optimistic timeline than Mr Bezos himself for the project to be activated, saying the FAA's rules could be in place as early as 2015 and that Amazon Prime Air would be ready at that time.
Mr Bezos hinted that part of the motivation behind the mini-drones was to make sure Amazon remains on the cutting edge of the retail industry.
"Companies have short life spans ... And Amazon will be disrupted one day," he said.
"I would love for it to be after I'm dead."
It is not known if there are plans for the service to be launched outside of the US.