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Amazon's transforming delivery drone could be at your door in months

By Benjamin Bullard
Amazon Prime Air delivery drone

If Amazon’s goal of introducing drone delivery into its on-demand shopping mix goes according to plan, chances are you’ll one day be spying the little buzzers overhead whether you’ve hopped on board the drone-embracing bandwagon or not.

When and if that day comes, those hovering objects that keep swooping in and out of your sky-view may look a lot like this: Amazon’s six-sided, unnamed air courier drone, which the company showed off in a minute-long demonstration clip at its Amazon re:MARS AI showcase this week.

Squint slightly and you might detect a hint of TIE fighter from certain angles. But with a wingspan not much bigger than that of a typical human’s (and no proton torpedoes), Amazon’s version is decidedly more benign — a fact only emphasized by the demo clip’s Liszt piano soundtrack, blithely framing the drone’s aerial tour of a bucolic countryside:

As you can tell from the video, the drone is capable of both vertical hover and in-line propulsive flight, a feature Amazon believes will help expedite its planned Prime Air delivery mission from point of origin all the way to Prime members’ front doors. The payload is small and the range is short — about five pounds and 15 miles, respectively — but, as The Verge reports, Amazon says somewhere between 75 and 90 percent of the orders it fills already qualify, weight-wise, for drone delivery.

Amazon’s Jeff Wilke told the re:MARS audience that the company’s goal is to achieve 30-minute delivery via Prime Air, and to have the service up and running in an early testing phase in still-undisclosed delivery markets within six months’ time. While that sounds ambitious — and the demo clip doesn’t show whether, or how, the customer will actually interact with the device to receive their goods — it appears as though Amazon’s dream of deploying a fully functioning delivery drone fleet is really just a matter of when — not if.