Amazon gives us a sneak peek of new Prime Air delivery drone

Amazon's delivery drone prototype has been given a makeover in preparation for the Prime Air delivery service launch.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Amazon has given us a look at the latest evolution of the Prime Air drone, destined to deliver our packages within 30 minutes.

In a video posted to YouTube on Sunday, the e-commerce giant revealed the latest look for the drone. As you can see from the video, the new railed design is bigger, sturdier, and certainly looks less fragile than previous versions, although few details have been given on the new hybrid design.

Hosted by ex-Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson, the promotional video says that in the "not too distant future," the idea of ordering a package from Amazon and receiving it in 30 minutes or less will become reality.

Once an order is placed at a local depot, a delivery drone will rise vertically in the air to 400 feet before traveling horizontally for up to 15 miles. The prototype in question, based on the flight data, was able to fly at approximately 56mph and used sensors to avoid collisions with other aerial vehicles or obstacles.

When close to the customer's home, the drone then begins its descent, scanning a landing area close by the designated address for hazards before dropping the package and flying up to altitude and back to Amazon.

"In time there will be a whole family of Amazon drones, different designs for different environments," Clarkson says.

Beginning its inception in the firm's Seattle, Wash.-based headquarters, Amazon has developed the drones primarily for small packages ordered in a hurry. Amazon's Prime Air drone delivery service first hit the news several years ago with many of us considered it a prank on behalf of the retail giant, but two years later the project is steaming ahead.

However, Amazon and other firms exploring the possibility of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) applications in the delivery industry -- such as Google and the company's Project Wing -- are facing regulatory hurdles to getting their services off the ground.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently thrashing out how best to control drones in both commercial and consumer settings, and while the idea of a drone registry is being debated for devices under 250 pounds, rules concerning commercial craft are still up in the air -- leaving companies such as Amazon and Google to wonder when their drone services will be able to launch.

Under current proposals which are yet to be signed into law, the US regulator would require hobbyists to register their drones when used recreationally.

Speaking to sister site CNET, an Amazon said spokesperson said, "we will deploy when and where we have the regulatory support needed to safely realize our vision."

The FAA expects drones to rise in popularity, with up to one million being sold this holiday season alone -- prompting the need for regulations, and fast.

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