From around this time next year, Amazon customers in the UK and Italy will have the option to get their packages delivered by drone, the retail giant announced Wednesday.
While Amazon has been delivering small packages via drone in Texas and California for over a year now, this is the first time the company will roll out the service beyond US borders. Where exactly in the UK and Italy the service will begin has yet to be revealed.
The announcement came the same day as Amazon showcased its next-generation delivery drone design — the MK30. While it doesn’t improve on the carrying capacity (approximately 2.2kg) of its predecessor, the new drone is slated to be “quieter, smaller and lighter.”
The MK30 also doubles the range of previous Prime Air drone models, with roughly half the noise, and in more diverse weather conditions, Amazon said. The previous version did not allow delivery in light rain, wind, hot temperatures, or other adverse conditions.
The new drone is equipped with sense-and-avoid technology to dodge obstacles. Its design takes on a tiltrotor concept, acting as a helicopter upon takeoff and transitioning into horizontal wing-borne flight once in the air.
These drones are intended for use at the new sites in the UK and Italy, and will replace those currently used to deliver in the US by the end of 2024.
David Carbon, vice president of Amazon’s Prime Air programme, told reporters during a press conference that the tech giant would ultimately dispatch drones from a string of locations across the US, UK, and Italy.
“We will open more facilities over time,” he said. “This is not a market test. Our customers, and frankly our communities, need this type of sustainable service.”
Currently, Amazon’s delivery drones cannot fly beyond the line of sight of a human observer due to strict flight regulations, although it hopes this will change soon. To this end, the company said it is “working closely” with national regulators and international regulators to “build a safe and scalable service”.
“Exploring the options of how drones can be safely and successfully incorporated into more of the UK’s airspace is key,” said Frederic Laugere, head of innovation advisory services at the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
“It is vital that projects such as this take place to feed into the overall knowledge and experiences that will soon enable drones to be operating beyond the line of sight of their pilot on a day-to-day basis, while also still allowing safe and equitable use of the air by other users,” he added.
Amazon hopes to deliver 500 million packages on autonomous aircraft by 2030.