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Here’s everything you need to know about Amazon’s drone delivery project, Prime Air

Amazon has done a lot recently to speed up its shipping services. It has algorithms that anticipate your orders, ultra-efficient robots that pick items from warehouses, and even a service (Prime Now) that delivers certain items to your doorstep just hours after you order them.

The only problem? Right now, this super-fast shipping service depends on delivery trucks, and only works if you live fairly close to one of Amazon’s warehouses. This puts limits on not only the number of people who can use the service, but also the selection of items available to prospective buyers.

That’s where Amazon’s efforts to introduce drone delivery come in. The company first announced its project — appropriately dubbed Prime Air — in late-2013, to much skepticism. Since then, the project has overcome numerous hurdles, and while it’s not quite ready for primetime quite yet, every month it inches closer toward launch.

To help you keep track of the project’s development, we’ve put together this comprehensive timeline. It starts with Prime Air’s history and goes through every major development up to the present. Be sure to circle back from time to time, as this article is updated regularly to include the latest news and information. Enjoy!

A dose of reality

Getting Amazon drones off the ground (both literally and figuratively) will take a lot of work, in addition to persuading the FAA to agree to let drones in the air in the first place. One big hurdle is the issue of getting the packages to you. Although Amazon has established a commendable network of fulfillment centers throughout the country, there are only locations in 24 states, most of which are coastal.

To remedy this — and this is pretty out there — Amazon recently patented what it calls an “airborne fulfillment center.” This basically amounts to a warehouse that doubles as a drone airport, one that would hang suspended from a blimp. Another issue Amazon has to deal with is where to put these drones when they’re not in use. For this one, the company has suggested using street lights, cell towers, and other high-lofted objects as potential “docking stations.” And how about getting the package to you? Does the drone land on your front porch? Maybe not — it might deliver the package via parachute.

But in every case, these ideas are not yet realistic and show that it’s likely that it will be many more years before Prime Air takes off (no pun intended). As for a timeline, it looks like we will have to wait until as late as 2020, if not later, for large-scale availability.

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