Amazon is serious about drone delivery

The company is already designing its seventh and eighth generations of aerial couriers.

Amazon is flight testing the drones it plans to use in a yet-to-be-launched delivery service, according to details in CEO Jeff Bezos' letter to shareholders.

In December, Bezos unveiled the new delivery-by-drone service known as Prime Air in an interview on 60 Minutes. The project, which is subject to safety and regulatory rules by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, would use "octocopters" to transport small packages via buckets from Amazon's storage centers to customers in 30 minutes or less. 

Since the initial interview, the company has shared very little on its secret R&D project. At the time, some speculated the "drones" program was just a low-priority project floated more for its publicity than its merit. 

Bezos' letter to shareholders suggests the drone plans are far more serious—and further along. Indeed, the company is already designing its seventh and eighth generations of the drones. 

Here's everything Bezos has to say in his letter about "fast delivery:"

In partnership with the United States Postal Service, we’ve begun for the first time to offer Sunday delivery to select cities. Sunday delivery is a win for Amazon customers, and we plan to roll it out to a large portion of the U.S. population throughout 2014. We’ve created our own fast, last-mile delivery networks in the UK where commercial carriers couldn’t support our peak volumes. In India and China, where delivery infrastructure isn’t yet mature, you can see Amazon bike couriers delivering packages throughout the major cities. And there is more invention to come. The Prime Air team is already flight testing our 5th and 6th generation aerial vehicles, and we are in the design phase on generations 7 and 8.

Thumbnail photo: Flickr user Silius Grok


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