Amazon has announced plans to test delivery drones within the UK. The UK government has lifted flying restrictions which gives Amazon special permission to test and fly its drones within UK air space.
The aim is to get drones to deliver parcels within 30 minutes of ordering as part of Amazon’s Prime Air initiative.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has already stated that Amazon is allowed to test their drones. Typically, drone pilots must not lose sight of their drone, fly in densely populated areas, or over a certain height.
The CAA has waived several of these rules in order for Amazon to test their drones. The most important of which being that in Amazon’s case, only one pilot is in charge of multiple drones.
The test runs are starting in Cambridge, at a new development base and will take place in certain ‘controlled spaces’ where the CAA have lifted flying restrictions. These are by far the most extensive trails of the drones and will focus on the devices being able to ‘sense and avoid’ obstacles in the air as well as on the ground.
Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global innovation policy and communications, said the UK “had been a world leader in enabling drone innovation”.
“This announcement strengthens our partnership with the UK and brings Amazon closer to our goal of using drones to safely deliver parcels in 30 minutes to customers in the UK and elsewhere around the world,” he said.
“We want to enable the innovation that arises from the development of drone technology by safely integrating drones into the overall aviation system,” said Tim Johnson, the CAA’s head of policy. “These tests by Amazon will help inform our policy and future approach.”
Amazon showed off their second prototype of the Prime Air drone last year, but the problem was always finding somewhere to test them. This second prototype is capable of taking off and landing vertically, like a helicopter. It can also fly for around 10 miles carrying a packages of up to 5lbs at an altitude of 400 feet.
Despite the endorsement from the UK government, there are some people who are not that happy about unmanned drones flying about in our skies.
Robotics expert and Sheffield University professor Noel Sharkey, who co-founded the Foundation for Responsible Robotics and judges BBC’s Robot Wars programme, gives his reasons to the BBC why he is worried about unmanned drones:
“All information is stealable and all drones hackable. Anybody could steal one to deliver drugs or bombs.
“The Taliban have been hacking into military drones for years, stealing video feeds, using a bit of software they got from Sweden. Hezbollah did it for years with Israeli military drones.
“In 2012 the US Army warned people that it couldn’t help making accidental recordings while flying over houses; so filming people in their back gardens, for example.”
Jeff Bezos first talked about delivery drones back in 2013 and it appears that we are now a little closer to seeing them in the skies.