Amazon unveils its redesigned 'hybrid' delivery drone, featuring helicopter and plane...

Polycount

TS Evangelist
Staff member

Amazon has been testing out its delivery drone service known as "Prime Air" for quite some time now, but only in select areas -- there's still no word on when they might be ready to spread across the United States or the world at large.

Before that can happen, Amazon likely wants to ensure its drones are perfect (or at least as close to perfect as they can reasonably get) by iterating on them over time and testing out different versions to see what sticks.

To that end, Amazon revealed the latest redesign of its Prime Air delivery drones at the re:MARS AI conference on Wednesday. See the new and improved drone in action below.

The main goals behind the Prime Air drone's new look and functionality are boosted efficiency, stability, and safety. Amazon has accomplished the former two tasks by implementing a "hybrid" flight mode into the new design. Now, the drones can take off and land vertically as a helicopter can, but once they fully take to the sky, they can switch to "airplane mode" for faster, more power-efficient travel.

As far as safety advancements go, those improvements come through jumps in Amazon's AI technology. The retail giant's Jeff Wilke explains the new AI safety features as follows:

If our drone’s flight environment changes, or the drone‘s mission commands it to come into contact with an object that wasn’t there previously—it will refuse to do so—it is independently safe... Our drones need to be able to identify static and moving objects coming from any direction. We employ diverse sensors and advanced algorithms, such as multi-view stereo vision, to detect static objects like a chimney. To detect moving objects, like a paraglider or helicopter, we use proprietary computer-vision and machine learning algorithms.

In other words, Amazon's new drones are much more capable of reacting to dynamic changes in their environment and, when necessary, ignoring previous commands in the name of safety.

This is particularly important when a drone approaches the ground to drop off a delivery -- the average customer could have any number of obstructions in their front yard, including (but certainly not limited to) lawn chairs, animals, clotheslines, or vehicles. For Amazon's delivery drone fleet to become mainstream, it will need to intelligently avoid these obstacles with almost perfect consistency.

At any rate, we're looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Prime Air and drone-based delivery systems as a whole.

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TomSEA

TechSpot Chancellor
True story: I work in a rural suburb for a fire department about 20 miles from Seattle. Last year we were called out for a "wreck of some sort" in one of our more remote areas. Took a while to find the scene, but there were 3 large SUV's there, all manned by French folks. And they didn't want to talk to us. Kept pretending they couldn't speak any English.

After a while - and with threats of calling the police - they finally admitted they were testing an Amazon delivery drone and one of them had wrecked. And these are pretty sizable drones.

We told them to be sure to stay clear of residential and business areas for their testing, as we have pretty strict drone ordinances. They packed up their wrecked drone and we haven't seen them since.

But that little incident sure didn't instill much faith for us in Amazon's drone delivery project. ;)
 

mcborge

TS Guru
Drone deliveries are perfect for getting emergency medical supplies to regions with no infrastructure, but using them to deliver in highly built up areas with lots of tall obstructions and more frequent air traffic is an accident waiting to happen. And then there's the failure rate to consider. How long will it be before one drops on some unsuspecting pedestrian.
 

psycros

TS Evangelist
For the price of a single drone, including all the support infrastructure, regulations, etc you probably buy two or three regular delivery vans for express inter-city service..and THOSE can carry a lot more packages. Naturally that means paying drivers, and we all know the name of the game is putting more people out of job even though customer service will suffer.
 

Evernessince

TS Evangelist
What could possibly go wrong?
Out in the country where I live and everyone has several variety of firearms (shotgun is manditory here) nothing will go wrong as long as you yell "Pull!" just before you unload on it .......
Not really worth it for a single package. You'd likely end up with a box of food that perhaps someone needed. Given that drones have a short range I doubt they will be used in Rural areas.
 

godrilla

TS Enthusiast
Drone deliveries are perfect for getting emergency medical supplies to regions with no infrastructure, but using them to deliver in highly built up areas with lots of tall obstructions and more frequent air traffic is an accident waiting to happen. And then there's the failure rate to consider. How long will it be before one drops on some unsuspecting pedestrian.
Its ok how else are monopolies made if our politicians are literally paid through special interest groups and lobbying to look the other way! They even own their own media outlet to intimidate anyone who stands in their way.
 
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