Amazon drone service to start deliveries this year, almost a decade after being revealed


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Recap: In December 2013, when Amazon first revealed its plans to deliver packages using drones, Barack Obama was president, and Russia hadn't invaded Crimea. Almost a decade later, the tech giant is finally set to launch its drone service, with the town of Lockeford, California, set to receive deliveries from the drones once the Federal Aviation Administration grants approval.

Amazon writes that residents of Lockeford, located about 50 miles south of Sacramento, will be the first to receive Prime deliveries via drone into their backyards later this year. The program will receive a wider rollout after the trial.

Lockeford residents will be able to order "thousands" of eligible Prime items for drone delivery, which will presumably be restricted to those weighing five pounds or lighter. They should arrive in under an hour, and buyers can track the drones online.

"Lockeford residents will soon have access to one of the world's leading delivery innovations," said California State Assemblyman Heath Flora, whose district includes Lockeford. "It's exciting that Amazon will be listening to the feedback of the San Joaquin County community to inform the future development of this technology."

Amazon's drones use an "industry-leading" sense-and-avoid system that allows them to operate Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), meaning they can fly at distances outside the visual range of pilots while still avoiding other aircraft, people, pets, and obstacles. The drones can also ensure there is a clear area in customers' backyards as they descend to deliver packages.

Over two dozen prototype drones have been tested since Prime Air's inception, the latest of these (top of page) use a hexagonal design that provides six degrees of freedom and propellors designed to minimize high-frequency soundwaves.

The deliveries in Lockeford are still dependent on the FAA certifying that they accord with the National Environmental Policy Act, Av Raichura Zammit, a spokesperson for Amazon, told The Verge.

In 2013, Amazon's former CEO and founder Jeff Bezos said the drones would be making deliveries within five years. Six years later, Amazon said deliveries by drone would be available to customers within months. The project looked shaky in 2020 when Amazon fired dozens of Prime Air employees, but the end goal appears in sight.

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If anyone is wondering why Amazon would pilot this location in a random town in California, here's why...

The San Joaquin County is actually becoming a significant logistics hub in the United States. It has the Port of Stockton with deepwater access to the Pacific Ocean, major railroad and highway routes that cross through it, and direct routes to Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and more. What makes itself excel compared to all these locations however is the cost and availability of both land and labor.

Here are a number of major logistics and manufacturing sites located within:

- Amazon (at least 4 fulfillment centers)
- FedEx, DHL, UPS, USPS distribution centers
- Tesla (separate manufacturing and distribution sites)
- Department of Defense (two distribution centers)
- Costco
- Home Depot, Lowes, Tractor Supply Co
- Wayfair, Ashley Homestore, Crate & Barrel
- In N Out

There are more. There are over 100 results for trucking companies in this county, and you see large logistics facilities along local freeways to be leased with no specific customer in mind.