Amazon plans to start delivering drones in California this year

Amazon said Monday that Amazon plans to start delivering some packages by drone to homes in a few Northern California communities this year.

Af Zammit said agricultural residents of the towns of Lockford and Acampo in San Joaquin County, as well as parts of Lodi, will be able to order “thousands of everyday items” online and can expect a drone to drop them in their backyards in less than an hour. Amazon spokesperson.

Zammit said Amazon Prime Air planes can carry packages weighing 5 pounds or less — such as cosmetics, office supplies, technology, batteries and household items — usually the size of a large shoebox.

The company is building a facility in Lockford from which the drones will fly.

Although Amazon Prime Air will be certified for commercial freight forwarding in 2020, it is still seeking approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and county officials for its plans in San Joaquin County.

Since CEO Jeff Bezos appeared in a “60 Minutes” segment in 2013 to announce the e-commerce giant’s aspirations to deliver packages by air in four to five years, the company has rolled out prototype drones, each of which has fallen short of public release. .

With huge warehouses and truck traffic increasing pollution in places like the Inland Empire, drone shipments have been mentioned as a way to reduce carbon emissions.

Last year, Business Insider reported that at least eight Amazon drones crashed during testing; Last summer in Oregon, a drone fell 160 feet and crashed, starting a brush fire, after its engine failed.

The company said Amazon’s latest model is a hexagonal propeller-driven plane with a “sense and avoid system”, which uses an algorithm to avoid collisions with other planes, stacks, people and other potential obstacles.

Customers will need to select an appropriate landing area with an Amazon employee. There, the customer will drop a tag, similar to a QR code. The drone will drop to about 2 to 3 yards from the ground, drop the beam and fly away.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has required human controllers to monitor Amazon’s drones from takeoff until they are out of sight. Amazon plans to order the safety precautions to be removed.

“Part of that is learning as you go forward,” Zammit said.

The technology in self-driving drones is advanced enough to power Amazon Prime Air, said Raja Sengupta, a professor of transportation engineering at UC Berkeley who has worked with drones for nearly 30 years. But given Amazon’s history of testing problems, Sengupta expressed skepticism about factors such as bad weather and moving obstacles like a dog or cat.

“It is one thing to do this in university or in testing, and it is another thing to do as a sustainable and repeatable product,” Sengupta said.

Amazon’s decision to downgrade the drone for deliveries also worried Sengupta. Competitors’ drones, such as those from Alphabet’s Wing or Ireland’s Manna, lower beams with a rope, while the drone flies at a higher altitude.

“All of this is harder than what the rest of the industry is doing,” Sengupta said.

Amazon plans to expand drone deliveries to densely populated urban areas such as Los Angeles.

With a population of about 3,500 people, horse and cattle farms, orchards and vineyards, plenty of open land, and low-density housing, Lockford made the most sense as a first step, Zmmit said.

Rindy Crawford, principal at Ace Hardware in Lockeford, was surprised by Amazon’s choice of the rural location to roll out shipments of the drones.

“We have one grocery store, two gas stations and sort of a hardware store — it’s not like we’re Stockton or Lodi or the Bay Area,” Crawford said.

She was concerned that the program would replace delivery workers.

“You missed that human connection, that one-on-one,” she said.

Amazon said it will solicit feedback from the community and offer jobs at its new facility.

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