Amazon delivery drones heading to UK with government support
Amazon is launching a new project exploring the safe use of drones for home deliveries in Britain, with support from the UK government.
The technology giant has been developing drones that can deliver its parcels to private addresses over a short distance as part of its Prime Air initiative.
Amazon is now working with the government and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to develop better safety regulations, improve drone technology and conduct the first tests of the technology in the UK.
Current regulations do not permit drone operators to lose line of sight of their device or operate over densely populated areas, unless they have CAA permission.
Technology to overcome these restrictions will be explored in the new programme, which will also test sensor performance to help drones detect and avoid obstacles.
The US launched a registry system for owners and operators of drones in December last year that became a mandatory requirement for all owners of drones above a certain size.
While a similar system has not yet been implemented in the UK, the government has considered implementing mandatory geo-fencing technology which acts as virtual walls to prevent drones from entering restricted areas such as airports or military bases.
Paul Misener, Amazon's vice president of global innovation policy and communications said: "The UK is a leader in enabling drone innovation. We've been investing in Prime Air research and development here for quite some time.
"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.
"Using small drones for the delivery of parcels will improve customer experience, create new jobs in a rapidly-growing industry and pioneer new sustainable delivery methods to meet future demand."
"The UK is charting a path forward for drone technology that will benefit consumers, industry and society."
The drones themselves are capable of transporting loads weighing up to 2.5kg, but will probably be initially confined to high-population density areas.
The CAA's policy director Tim Johnson said: "We want to enable the innovation that arises from the development of drone technology by safely integrating drones into the overall aviation system. These tests by Amazon will help inform our policy and future approach."
In the US, the first fully autonomous delivery of goods to a commercial customer by a drone only took place last Friday in Reno, Nevada.