Amazon's drone delivery fleet has crossed the ocean. Sort of.
The Seattle-based company has announced that its Prime Air drone delivery programme is now making deliveries in the UK. It's already delivered to two customers and will expand to more customers soon. This is a trial restricted to small items up to 5lbs (2.2kg), but it completes deliveries in 30 minutes or less.
On 7 December, Prime Air delivered its first order: an Amazon Fire TV and a bag of popcorn. Amazon said it took 13 minutes for the customer to get the package in Cambridge via Amazon's own specialised drone. Although Amazon has Prime Air development centers in the US, as well as in the UK, Austria, and Israel, and it plans to test drones in multiple international locations, the company has started trials in the UK, rather than the US, because it's received permission from regulators in the country.
In July, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) provided Amazon with permission to test drone operations in rural and suburban areas, as well as permission to test drone sensor performance essential to identifying and avoiding obstacles. It also received permission to test flights where one person operates multiple highly-automated drones. The company said it's working with regulators and policymakers in other countries, too.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Amazon said it will expand its test in the UK from two customers in a roughly 5-square-mile area of farmland to dozens more in the coming months. As to how it works, Amazon's drones deliver to customers located near its warehouses, and those customers must print off a QR code supplied by Amazon and stick it outside their house. It acts like a beacon, allowing the drone to locate you and land.
Amazon has a bunch of videos demoing how delivery works. In them, Amazon's drones appear to be small with no fixed-wings, which indicates they can't travel very far. Also, they're much different from the original Prime Air drones that were massive with fixed wings.