Amazon, gov't team up to bring Prime Air to UK

The UK government doesn't want to trail behind the US in drone delivery.

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Amazon

Amazon and the UK government have launched a partnership to bring drone deliveries to British citizens.

Announced on Tuesday, the e-commerce giant and government officials said the collaboration will "explore the steps needed to make the delivery of parcels by small drones a reality."

As part of the deal, Amazon will be allowed to trial new testing methods of drone delivery systems, joining the likes of Starship Technologies, a company undergoing pilot testing for land-based robotic deliveries.

Amazon's drone delivery service, dubbed Amazon Prime Air, uses remotely-controlled octocopter drones with the aim of delivering small parcels to online customers in as little as 30 minutes.

In 2014, Amazon advertised for engineers to work on the project in Cambridge, UK, indicating that the delivery service was pegged for an eventual launch in the country.

The new partnership, supported by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), gives Amazon permission to explore beyond line-of-sight drone control in rural and suburban areas, sensor performance experiments used in obstacle avoidance, and flights where one person operates multiple highly-automated drones.

The tests will be conducted by a cross-government and Amazon team and aim to speed up the development of Prime Air. However, they will also prove useful to the CAA in identifying any new rules and regulations needed for the emerging industry before it becomes firmly established.

"The UK is a leader in enabling drone innovation -- we've been investing in Prime Air research and development here for quite some time," said Paul Misener, Amazon's Vice President of Global Innovation Policy and Communications.

"Using small drones for the delivery of parcels will improve customer experience, create new jobs in a rapidly growing industry, and pioneer new sustainable delivery methods to meet future demand."

Earlier this month, Amazon was granted a new patent for drone docking stations which could charge drones in city points such as streetlights, buildings and power poles.