Amazon wants a chunk of airspace given over to delivery drones

google patent box on wheels drone delivery
Gualtiero Boffi / Shutterstock
Many may uttered a cynical “yeah, right” when Jeff Bezos unveiled his plan for a delivery drone in 2013, but subsequent test flights of the Prime Air machine, heavy investment in drone-focused R&D centers, partnerships with NASA and others to build an air traffic control system for drones, and even appearances by Amazon executives in front of congressional committees show that the company isn’t just serious about flying books and other small items to customers, but utterly determined to see the plan through.

More on that NASA partnership. This week a bunch of companies and other establishments, Amazon and Google among them, are meeting in San Francisco to thrash out some ideas on the planned monitoring system for managing the multitude of commercial drones that could one day be buzzing about in the skies above our cities, performing a range of tasks for a myriad of businesses.

Speaking at the NASA-hosted event on Tuesday, Amazon unveiled proposals for how it’d like to essentially divide up the sky for different types of flying machine, with a space between 200 and 400 feet from the ground reserved for autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as its Prime Air quadcopter.

With an eye on super-fast deliveries, the company said the flying machines should also be allowed to reach speeds of up to 70 mph.

In a bid to ease safety concerns, Amazon suggests the designation of a no-fly zone between 400 and 500 feet to clearly separate UAVs from regular aircraft, the Guardian reported.

Drones flying in the designated 200-foot band of air would incorporate cutting-edge detection and avoidance technology, and operate under the guidance of an advanced air traffic control system, the Seattle-based company told the event’s attendees.

Envisioning a day when city skies are dotted with a huge number of commercial drones, and mindful of the safety challenges such a scenario will bring, Gur Kimchi, VP and co-founder of Amazon’s Prime Air initiative, said at the conference, “Under our proposal everybody has to be collaborative – vehicles must be able to talk to each other and avoid each other as the airspace gets denser at low altitudes.”

Kimchi knows that safe drone flight, through on-board technology and a sophisticated traffic monitoring system, is essential if it wants to have a chance of convincing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to relax regulations on the operation of commercial drone flights. The FAA is currently designing a new set of guidelines for later this year, though until the advanced systems Amazon speaks of have been fully developed, the FAA’s rules are likely to remain fairly restrictive.


Mercedes wants to turn your car into a comfortable shopping mall on wheels

Mercedes-Benz designed its MBUX infotainment system with e-commerce in mind. Motorists can upgrade compatible cars via an over-the-air software updating system, but the brand wants to take this technology to the next level.

The 2018 iPad is often the best iPad for most people — and now it’s only $250

Apple may have recently taken the wraps off of a new iPad Air and iPad Mini, but it's still the standard iPad that is best for most people. Now, the standard iPad has gotten a pretty significant discount -- it's down from $330 to $250.

iPad Air vs. iPad Mini: Which new tablet from Apple is best for you?

Apple has unveiled two new iPad models, including a new iPad Air and a new iPad Mini. Both devices have a lot to offer. But which iPad is right for your needs? We put the iPad Air and iPad Mini to the test to find out.

The Apple iPad Air is the power-packed tablet for everyone

The iPad Air is the less serious cousin to Apple's iPad Pro range, and it's the perfect addition to your coffee table. But it's no less powerful. Here's everything you need to know about the iPad Air.
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.

At $99, Nvidia’s Jetson Nano minicomputer seeks to bring robotics to the masses

Nvidia announced a new A.I. computer, the Jetson Nano. This computer comes with an 128-core GPU that Nvidia claims can handle pretty much any A.I. framework you could imagine. At $99, it's an affordable way for A.I. newbies to get involved.

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 

British Airways’ new Club Suite for business class comes with a door

British Airways is going after a bigger slice of the business class market with the imminent launch of the Club Suite. The plush seating option offers a more private space as well as an easier route to the bathroom.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.