Amazon releases video of first autonomous drone delivery in the UK

15 Dec 2016

Amazon Prime Air delivery drone. Image: Amazon

Amazon has released footage of the first autonomous drone delivery in the UK, but it seems like quite an effort to deliver a streaming stick and a bag of popcorn.

With the finer details of the legality and tech behind autonomous delivery drones hashed out over the past two years, Amazon seems to think now is the time to actually test them in the real world.

In a video released just before Christmas, Amazon revealed that two of its customers are currently the lucky few to be able to order packages through the service.

Fire stick and a bag of popcorn

When an order is placed, a relatively nearby facility packs the items into a box, which is then inserted into the autonomous drone.

Once it is ready to fly, it rolls itself along a track – like something from Thunderbirds – and will then take off and travel to its pre-determined destination.

For this delivery in Cambridge in the UK, the customer, Richard, ordered Amazon’s own Fire streaming stick and a bag of popcorn, which he collected from the pad used by the drone to identify a landing spot.

Starting with two customers, Amazon said that it will use the data obtained during these early tests to continue rolling the service out to over a dozen customers in the area, eventually to the point that it could become a viable service internationally.

An autonomous workforce

Last July, the UK government agreed that it would cooperate with the online retailer on drone deliveries culminating with permission from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority to fly the aircraft.

Under the agreement, Amazon could test its drones and their sensor performance in rural and suburban areas, as well as establishing a framework to have multiple drones running at any given time.

This latest effort is part of Amazon’s effort to create an autonomous robotic workforce capable of speeding up the delivery process significantly.

Also, in recent weeks, the company revealed Amazon Go, which would allow a customer to enter one of its physical stores, pick up items and walk out without needing to go to a checkout.

Unlike current supermarkets, Amazon Go would use a variety of sensors to know what the customer picked up and send the bill digitally.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic