Amazon Announces Drone Deliveries To Start In California Town This Year


On Monday (June 13), Amazon announced on the “Today” show that Lockeford, California, will be the launch community for Prime Air deliveries later this year. Packages weighing less than five pounds will be delivered within one hour from an Amazon facility roughly 15 miles away, according to the announcement. In a blog post, the company wrote that the drones, with the capability of identifying fixed objects in their flight pathway, will “descend to the customer’s backyard, and hover at a safe height … then safely release the package and rise back up to altitude.”

According to a report in Politico, the FAA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Commercial drone operation requires special certification from the agency. The pathway involves five phases toward acquiring a license to carry “property of another” beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). A 381-page FAA report published in March and cited in the Politico story indicated the agency is open to easing restrictions on BVLOS operations.

With a long-standing ambition to explore unmanned aircraft carriage of products, Amazon head Jeff Bezos first projected that drone deliveries could start as early as 2015.

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Looks like a clever design. I especially like the “guard rails” around the props.

    I assume it’s Electric. (Normally stories like this gush over that aspect. So it’s conspicuously absent. (I wonder how Electric’s perform in the summer heat? We’ve been having 115 F here in AZ.) And how they will do in our “Monsoon” Season, with wind gusts and microbursts popping up with little notice.)

  2. Like we’ve learned living in the desert, for four or five months a year mornings before 10am are the focus – for flying, hiking, hot coffee, monsoon-clear skies, world-class sunrises and coming soon, drone deliveries. Order early…

    But my backyard has too many trees, they’ll need to use the ample driveway space in front. Just shoot me a text and I’ll be ready.

  3. For rural areas, this totally makes sense. Having a diesel truck with a driver drive 10 miles up a winding narrow road to deliver a single 2lb package to me makes no sense, yet Amazon does this several times a week. Maybe they could also skip the crazy boxing they do. Too much cardboard.

    Biggest issue is location of Amazon facilities with drone capability. They need to get the range to 200 miles.

      • The most important difference is the customer experience: one hour delivery (drone) vs. next day delivery (truck). The next most important difference is the diesel truck burns a fuel that is increasingly expensive and carriers a worker who is increasingly hard to find and expensive to pay. At Amazon customer experience is king; economics and efficiency then decide the mechanism used to deliver a superior customer experience. That’s all that matters.

  4. This article says the amazing Amazon drones serving the lazy masses can avoid fixed objects during flight. What about moving objects? What about the California Condor? The Spotted Owl? The crop duster or medivac? So there I was. Flying along in my non engine-driven electrical system J3 Cub over the California countryside. Exhilarating and free. When suddenly BANG! I become instant collateral damage all in the name of materialistic impatience. So much for a fun day of flying outside of rule airspace. Ah, but you say my ADS-B will allow me to play well in the system. Nay nay. For I am a Condor. And as such I cannot equip my antique gem with ADS-B “out” due to the “always on” requirement of the FAA rules. Even if I wanted to carry a battery onboard to run a Mode C transponder coupled with a rule compliant UAT out ADS-B device, it can’t be operated in compliance with the rule. The cobbled up electrical system is a total-waste type since the battery is only charged when parked in the hangar and is continuously discharged in flight until dead. Assuming one could even get a field approval for adding the battery, wires, bus and equipment (yeah right). The instant an ADS-B out device turns off in the air or on the ground anywhere the operator is in violation of the onerous always on rule. These antique type of aircraft usually fly at altitudes similar to birds, crop dusters and helicopters. So like the Condor or Owl I am now a moving taget. If Bezos shoots me down with a drone I am confident that his accounts recivable system will still charge my Prime Membership auto-renewal fee unfettered for years.

    • Jim, there’s a solution in the pipeline. Pretty sure we’ll see a Red Flag Law applicable to pilots who choose to fly one of those Aging Airplanes the FAA was all anxietied-up about not so long ago. Because conformity…

    • “When suddenly BANG! I become instant collateral damage all in the name of materialistic impatience.”

      Seems you failed to see and avoid.

      “This article says the amazing Amazon drones serving the lazy masses”

      You are correct. I have personally whittled my time in china-mart to less than 30 min each week, and that’s basically a quick in and out for groceries and the odd sundry item that we run out of before our next Amazon delivery. Summer is here and I’ll be hitting the farmers markets and my china-mart visits will be almost nill.

      • I have had a close encounter with a drone in an airplane once before. It’s hard enough to see and avoid real airplanes, let alone these small drones that are hard to see until you’re right on top of them. In fact, at first I thought I was seeing another aircraft in the distance until I realized seconds before it flew past my right wing that it was actually a drone.

  5. I cannot see this making any “economical” sense. Five pound package with maybe a $1-$10 profit per flight. (I’m being generous). One flight then needs a recharge that may take 1-4 hours (I’m being generous). So one drone costing $25,000 with maybe 6-10 batteries to swap each costing $1000 with the associated crews to make the swap and reload the drone program the mission then setup and launch another $2 profit flight. This is so they get the “press” not to make any money. Maybe in 100 years this will be the thing not today.

    • Agree. Until they have a drone big enough (power and endurance, etc.) that can deliver multiple packages to multiple destinations in one trip, I don’t see how this makes any economical sense.

      Time will tell.

    • You’re “being generous” with your profit and charging expectations, and I’m guessing that you’re guessing about the drone and battery expenses.

      On the other hand, Amazon has actual insider info, and is pushing forward with it.

      Maybe you’re right. Amazon does tend to play the long game, but I’m not convinced that they’d put this effort into a program that would take a century to pay off.

      • Have a look at the automation Amazon have deployed in their warehouses. Drones are the last mile equivalent to the robotics used today in warehouses (and after watching those robots in action, the technical experience required in those operations is going to be a good basis for coordinating a fleet of drones in the air). This is most certainly one part of a much bigger long game.

  6. Millennials rent their clothing and spend money on many other trivial things that cost big bucks. Things that most real adults do themselves. So paying a small fortune to have a bag of nuggets delivered to their tiny house village in the sticks ( but within drone distance to a Starbucks ) makes perfect sense. In all fairness, gun laws should be such that any property owner can shoot the buggers down if they hover over their land. And maybe aircraft should be armed with lasers in case of potential collisions. I do not see this making much economic sense, but free markets will tell us that quickly once the investors’ money runs out. Drones for agriculture and industry make far more sense.

  7. I’m not a huge drone fan, but that’s not for technological reasons; I just prefer pilots, they tell better stories.

    At the same time I feel compelled to defend these pesky little buzzing creatures, specifically their lack of range and payload. The same was true of the Wright Flyer and I’m glad the pioneers of the 1900s kept pushing forward despite their contemporary naysayers.

  8. When a drone flies over my house, is it trespassing?
    If so, can I prevent drones from trespassing my property’s airspace?
    Can the FAA regulate drone flights over my property’s airspace?
    What is my property’s airspace?
    Would the FAA or others government agencies recognize my property’s airspace as 1000 ft agl or over the highest point of any structure and its lateral limits?z

    • A drone is flying over your house no more trespassing as any other type of aircraft flying over. You cannot prevent drones from flying over your property any more than you can prevent other aircraft operations. The FAA controls all the airspace above your property. Thank goodness in this case. Because if you want the FAA and other government agencies to restrict the air up to 1000 AGL above your yard then you may as well stop flying your aircraft now. It’s this same FAA airspace control and regulation that currently allows pilots to land at urban airports and allows the FAA to curtail local zoning regulators who occasionally decide they can come up with their own airspace rules. You sound more like a homeowner who bought a house under downwind at Reid Hillview than you do a pilot.

  9. Wow, sure a lot of hand-wringing over a pilot program (no pun intended). If anyone can make drone delivery a real thing, it is going to be Amazon. No outside investors needed, and just about the world’s deepest pockets. Also, I suspect that when it is rolled out for general use, there will be a delivery option button where you select rapid delivery, and it will come with a little surcharge, rather than free delivery. Just be happy he is not planning to use Blue Origin as the delivery device. :-0

    My main curiosity about drone delivery is how to handle deliveries to apartment addresses. Since the majority of Americans live in apartments would they not be able to use the aerial delivery option? Perhaps the town of Lockeford is mostly single-family houses so that won’t be an issue.