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Amazon starts drone delivery trials in California and Texas

Amazon has launched drone delivery trials in a couple of new locations in California and Texas.

David Carbon, vice president of Prime Air Amazon, announced the development on LinkedIn. His post included a photo (below) showing one of its drones carrying a small box on the end of a tether.

Amazon's delivery drone carrying a package.
Amazon

“First deliveries from our new sites in Texas and California,” Carbon wrote in his post. “Couldn’t be prouder of the amazing people that make up Prime Air. These are careful first steps that we will turn into giant leaps for our customers over the next number of years.”

Carbon added that “customers are our obsession, safety is our imperative, the future of delivery is our mandate, technology is unlocking that future, and our people are the foundation that it all sits on.”

Amazon has been developing its drone delivery service since 2013. The autonomous aircraft at the center of the platform has gone through many designs over the last decade, with each one improving on the last as the e-commerce giant seeks to persuade regulators that its flying machine is capable of safe and reliable operation. The company is set to launch its latest aircraft design — with improved durability and a range beyond the current nine miles — in 2024.

Watch how Amazon is preparing for safe drone delivery

With rules governing commercial drone flights still rather strict, Amazon and other leaders in the industry such as Alphabet-owned Wing have been operating pilot schemes like the ones just launched in California and Texas.

Select customers can use a smartphone app to order small items online in the usual way. A drone is then loaded up and sent to the customer’s address. Upon arrival, the ordered product is lowered to the ground using an extendable tether.

Using drones can help speed up last-mile delivery services, especially in urban areas where road traffic can slow things down. The electric flying machines can also help reduce carbon emissions.

But the drones need to be robust enough to handle adverse weather conditions, or deliveries could be delayed if there’s no road vehicle available to make the trip. The machines can be noisy, too, causing annoyance for folks living under their flight path. With that in mind, makers of commercial delivery drones have been working on creating quieter aircraft in a bid to keep the peace.

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