Amazon to expand Prime Air drone delivery in the UK and Italy

19 Oct 2023

Image: Amazon Prime Air

Competition in the drone delivery space continues to ramp up with Amazon’s latest Prime Air expansion plans in Europe, taking on drone operators Manna and Wing.

Amazon is expanding its Prime Air drone delivery service to the UK, Italy and an undisclosed third US city, with deliveries expected to commence in late 2024.

This adds to the company’s existing drone delivery services in Lockeford, California and College Station, Texas, where Amazon has been using drones to deliver packages weighing up to five pounds in “one hour or less” for almost a year.

In an announcement yesterday (18 October), Amazon said that it has a new MK30 drone design that is “quieter, smaller and lighter” than its existing models and that drone deliveries will now be integrated into its delivery network

This means that drones will be deployed from some same-day delivery sites and fulfilment centres in the UK, Italy and the US city which will be revealed in “coming months”.

“[This] will provide Amazon customers with faster delivery of an even greater selection of items. We will start with one site in each location and expand over time,” Amazon said.

“We are working closely with national regulators and international regulators, and communities in the EU, Italy, the UK and the US, to develop this programme. We have committed the necessary time and resources to build a safe and scalable service.”

Amazon also said that it aims to set “a higher bar for safety” across the commercial drone delivery industry, working closely with regulators to “design to the highest standard” set within those regulations.

The EU, and particularly Ireland, has a robust regulatory framework for drones. Companies operating in Ireland, such as Bobby Healy’s Manna and Alphabet-backed Wing, are also in talks with UK regulators to launch drone delivery services in the market.

“Exploring the options of how drones can be safely and successfully incorporated into more of the UK’s airspace is key,” said Frederic Laugere, head of innovation advisory services at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, about Amazon’s latest drone delivery plans in the UK.

“It is vital that projects such as this take place to feed into the overall knowledge and experiences that will soon enable drones to be operating beyond the line of sight of their pilot on a day-to-day basis, while also still allowing safe and equitable use of the air by other users.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic