Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has told investors the company is working on its seventh and eighth generation Prime drones, which the company hopes will be making deliveries by 2015.
If Bezos gets his way, Amazon’s compact unmanned "octocopter" will be delivering shoebox-sized parcels across the US well before the five-year timeline he initially outlined.
While some saw Bezos' announcement of its drone project last December as a publicity stunt, he's reassured investors in his 2013 Letter to Shareholders that he's deadly serious about getting the delivery service off the ground.
"The Prime Air team is already flight testing our fifth and sixth generation aerial vehicles, and we are in the design phase on generations 7 and 8," Bezos wrote.
Amazon said on its FAQ page for Prime drones that it hopes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will have set rules for drones "as early as sometime in 2015". So far the FAA has only acknowledged that drones could be useful in some commercial and civilian scenarios, and is weighing up what minimum safety requirements it would need to support them.
"We will be ready at that time," Amazon said.
The FAA's caution is with good reason. A drone being used to film a triathlon in Western Australia last week was responsible for hospitalising a competitor after the vehicle fell about 10 metres and struck her on the head.
According to the drone's operator, the device — which operated on the 2.5GHz frequency — was hacked by someone channel hopping. An illegal unmanned drone in NSW also had a near-collision with a Westpac rescue helicopter earlier this month.
Bezos noted that Amazon's drones are the pointy-end of its wider international delivery services, including its partnership with the US Postal Service for Sunday deliveries; its "last-mile" distribution network in the UK and bike couriers in India and China.