Amazon Prime Air

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Amazon Prime Air
Founded2016; 5 years ago (2016)

Prime Air is a drone delivery service currently in development by Amazon. Operations were expected to begin in select cities starting late 2019; however, as of December 2020, the service has yet to materialize.[1]

The service uses delivery drones to autonomously fly individual packages to customers within 30 minutes of ordering. To qualify for 30-minute delivery, the order must be less than 5 pounds (2.25  kg), must be small enough to fit in the cargo box that the craft will carry, and must have a delivery location within a 10-mile (16  km) radius of a participating Amazon order fulfillment center.[2] The company along with Zipline, Wingcopter and 7 others was selected by FAA to participate in a type certification program for delivery drones.[3]



In 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed plans for Amazon Prime Air in an interview on 60 Minutes.[2] The Amazon Prime Air team worked with NASA and Single European Sky ATM on trials using the Amazon air traffic management system. For additional safety, drones will fly at low altitudes (below 400 feet). There are no roads or fixed routes so there are many more options to get from point A to point B, that is why navigating a drone through the air is very different than a car driving on a road. Amazon claims their traffic management system is easy to use for various operators in the same airspace because it will connect via the internet.[4]

United States regulations and testing under waiver program[edit]

In the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Congress issued the Federal Aviation Administration a deadline of September 30, 2015 to accomplish a "safe integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system."[5] In August 2016 commercial use of UAV technology was legalized by the United States Congress.[6]

In March 2015, the FAA granted Amazon permission to begin U.S. testing of a prototype under a waiver to the then regulations. Amazon reported that the vehicle cleared for use was obsolete. In April 2015, the FAA allowed Amazon to begin testing current models. In the interim, Amazon had begun testing at a Canadian site close to the United States border.[7]

Current[when?] U.S. regulations required drones fly no higher than 400 ft (122 m), no faster than 100 mph (161 km/h), and remain within the pilot's line of sight.[8] Amazon has stated it intends to move towards operating above 200 ft (61 m) and beneath 500 ft (152 m). Amazon has stated it plans to fly drones weighing up to 55 lb (25 kg) within a 10 mi (16 km) radius of its warehouses, at speeds of up to 50 mph (80.5 km/h) with packages weighing up to 5 lb (2.26 kg) in tow.[7]

In June 2019, the FAA granted Amazon Prime Air a Special Airworthiness Certificate for training and research of its MK27 drone.[9] In August, 2020, the company received an FAA Part 135 air carrier certificate.[10]

Tests in Cambridge, England[edit]

Amazon has patented a beehive-like structure to house delivery drones in cities, allowing Amazon to move from large single-story warehouses that temporarily store packages before they are shipped.[11] Fulfillment centres designed to accommodate drone deliveries and operations within a certain radius are currently required.[12]

On December 7, 2016, Amazon successfully delivered a Prime Air parcel to Cambridge, England from a fulfillment center in the Cambridge area. Amazon posted a video of the delivery on their official YouTube channel, on December 14, 2016.[12] On December 15, 2016, Amazon began its first publicly available trial of Amazon Prime Air to those within several miles of Amazon's depot in Cambridge, England.[citation needed]

Internet connection and information storage[edit]

Amazon Prime Air drones will be connected to the internet for flight control management, and communication between drones.[13] It has been reported by Brookings that Amazon's data collection usage from drones has not been disclosed.[14] The Pittsburgh Journal of Technology Law and Policy, have reported proposed data collection from Amazon Prime Air drones as including; automated object detection, GPS surveillance, gigapixel cameras, and enhanced image resolution.[15]

Self-driving cars[edit]

Autonomous vehicles also fall under the Prime Air division's responsibility. While the last mile of a delivery is the most expensive[citation needed] and human drivers are the primary cost[citation needed] there is limited news about autonomous road vehicle deliveries. In 2017, Amazon was granted a patent for a method that would allow autonomous cars to deal with reversible lanes by receiving information from a central management system.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Look, up in the sky! It's my package. Amazon to start drone delivery 'within months'
  2. ^ a b "Amazon Unveils Futuristic Plan: Delivery by Drone". CBS News. 1 December 2013. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  3. ^ "FAA proposes airworthiness criteria for 10 unmanned aircraft, including operational intent". Retrieved 2020-11-27.
  4. ^ "Another new frontier for Prime Air". US Day One Blog. 2019-01-18. Retrieved 2019-01-25.
  5. ^ "FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012" (PDF). 14 February 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 June 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  6. ^ Chandran, Nyshka (29 August 2016). "FAA's new drone laws go into effect Monday, allowing US companies to innovate". Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  7. ^ a b Lavars, Nick (April 12, 2015). "Amazon to begin testing new delivery drones in the US". Gizmag. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  8. ^ Zwickle, Adam, Hillary B. Farber, and Joseph A. Hamm. 2018. "Comparing Public Concern and Support for Drone Regulation to the Current Legal Framework." Behavioral Sciences & the Law37(1):109–24. Retrieved March 18, 2019 (
  9. ^ Dave Lee (5 June 2019). "Amazon to deliver by drone 'within months'".
  10. ^ Amazon gets closer to drone delivery with FAA approval
  11. ^ Sam Levin (26 June 2016). "Amazon patents beehive-like structure to house delivery drones in cities". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  12. ^ a b amazon (2016-12-14), Amazon Prime Air's First Customer Delivery, retrieved 2016-12-15
  13. ^ Mac, Ryan (28 July 2015). "Amazon Proposes Drone Highway As It Readies For Flying Package Delivery". Forbes.
  14. ^ Singer, Peter W. (8 March 2013). "The Predator Comes Home: A Primer on Domestic Drones, their Huge Business Opportunities, and their Deep Political, Moral, and Legal Challenges". Brookings.
  15. ^ Schlag, Chris (30 May 2013). "The New Privacy Battle: How the Expanding Use of Drones Continues to Erode Our Concept of Privacy and Privacy Rights". Pittsburgh Journal of Technology Law and Policy. 13 (2). doi:10.5195/tlp.2013.123.
  16. ^ Hern, Alex (2017-01-18). "Amazon patent hints at self-driving car plans". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-05-06.