Amazon Is Experimenting With Autonomous Flying Delivery Drones

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Between launching a charity-friendly buying program, announcing Sunday deliveries, and gearing up for the first wave of frenzied holiday shoppers, Amazon has been busy these past few weeks. But that didn’t stop CEO Jeff Bezos from spending a decent chunk of time talking to Charlie Rose on 60 Minutes about something, well, new.

60 Minutes has been more than happy to tease the unveiling with a clip of Bezos leading Rose into a room to show him something that elicited an “Oh my God!” from the veteran TV journo. The exclamation seemed to stem from a place of pleasure rather than worry, but the segment just aired and the truth is out.

So what did Bezos have up his proverbial sleeves? Amazon Prime Air drones that could feasibly be used as autonomous delivery vehicles. To hear the chief executive tell it, those electric drones — or “octocopters” as he referred to them — could make for delivery times as low as 30 minutes. Naturally, the size of those drones means there’s a strict upper limit to how much cargo they can carry, but Bezos says they can carry packages of up to five pounds for round trips as long as 10 miles. Thankfully for Amazon, that means nearly 86 percent of the items that it carries can be lashed onto one of its sky-bound couriers.

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Just don’t expect to see one of them land on your doorstep any time soon. The FAA still hasn’t given its blessing to domestic drones yet (though it just recently laid out its vision for such a situation), which means the earliest that Amazon will be legally able to bring Prime Air online is in 2015 — a launch window that Bezos says is “optimistic” at best. There’s also no word on what company (if any) Amazon is working with to develop its fleet of drones, but at this stage, there’s no shortage of players eagerly working to bring drones into the world of business.

The rest of the report didn’t shine too much additional light on what makes Amazon tick, though it did afford us mere mortals a closer look at how its gargantuan fulfillment centers work. They’re stunningly large models of efficiency — the one 60 Minutes toured was 1.2 million sq. ft. and the workers packing products into parcels were able to do so with remarkable speed.

Sadly, since the segment was filmed over the span of a month, there’s no official response on the recent BBC report that took aim at Amazon UK for warehouse working conditions that could potentially cause “mental illness and physical illness”.

More on Amazon Air Prime:

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