Just ahead of Cyber Monday, Amazon released a new promo video and FAQ page on Sunday featuring Top Gear host and British automotive journalist Jeremy Clarkson imagining a new drone-delivery service in the “not too distant future.” In the video, Amazon’s fixed-wing/copter hybrid drone saves the day when a young soccer player (“football with your feet” as Clarkson quips) quickly needs a replacement cleat after the family bulldog chewed hers. Amazon Prime Air saves the day – as the video shows a newly designed prototype humming purposefully over the suburbs on its mission of sports-equipment mercy.
“In time there will be a whole family of Amazon drones, different designs for different environments,” Clarkson narrates, adding that the UAV featured in the video “can fly for 15 miles and it knows what’s happening around it. It uses ‘sense and avoid’ technology to, well, sense and then avoid obstacles on the ground and in the air.”
“After rising vertically like a helicopter to nearly 400 feet, this amazing hybrid design assumes a horizontal orientation and becomes a streamlined — and fast! — airplane,” Clarkson says enthusiastically – as well he might after inking a mammoth TV deal with Amazon over the summer to the tune of $46 million.
In Clarkson’s not-too-distant future, Amazon customers will receive a message via tablet to announce the impending arrival of a drone. The customer then taps out an approval confirmation and the drone, Clarkson says, then “goes back to vertical mode and scans the landing area for potential hazards. This amazing innovation then lowers itself slowly to the ground, drops off the package, and flies straight back up to altitude.”
But in order to enter the high-stakes world of replacement athletic footwear, Amazon will have to face challenges tougher than the young lady’s bulldog in the video – the FAA and other national airspace regulators across Europe and Asia.
As noted in DRONELIFE: “The FAA has been at odds with Amazon on drones since Jeff Bezos revealed Prime Air on 60 Minutes in 2013 and the administration has missed plenty of deadlines in regards to drone regulations.”
The company updated its Prime Air website Sunday in response to FAA regulations and the agency’s rulemaking plans for UAVs weighing less than 55 pounds:
“Amazon Prime Air is a future service that will deliver packages up to five pounds in 30 minutes or less using small drones … Flying under 400 feet and weighing less than 55 pounds, Prime Air vehicles will take advantage of sophisticated ‘sense and avoid’ technology, as well as a high degree of automation, to safely operate beyond the line of sight to distances of 10 miles or more.”
The company admits that “putting Prime Air into service will take some time, but we will deploy when we have the regulatory support needed to realize our vision.”