Amazon Expands Drone Delivery Testing to a Big State

Faster, cleaner deliveries are among the goals of using the new technology.

Retailers are always inordinately excited to announce that they will be dropping off their customers’ orders by drone — Walmart  (WMT) – Get Walmart Inc. Report first said that it would start using them to drop health and wellness orders to rural parts of Arkansas in the fall of 2021.

Amazon  (AMZN) – Get Inc. Report, which has been talking of “investing in drone technology” for years, recently announced that residents of Lockeford, California would be the first to receive their online orders by drone.

“For these deliveries, the drone will fly to the designated delivery location, descend to the customer’s backyard, and hover at a safe height,” Amazon said at the time. “It will then safely release the package and rise back up to altitude.”

While the announcement was made on June 13, Amazon is yet to name the exact day that someone from Lockeford will be able to order, say, some dish soap or a camera tripod and have it drop from the sky and on their lawn. 

The exact date Prime Air will be made available is currently being kept under wraps.

Drones Are Coming To Texas, Too?

A month after Amazon revealed that it had chosen Lockeford as Prime Air’s pilot city, it said that it would also be expanding to another city, in Texas.

A population of around 115,000 people, College Park sits in the middle of Brazos Valley and meets the qualifications of being both the site of ongoing drone research with Texas A&M University and remote enough to benefit from drone delivery.

College Park is 86 miles from Houston and over 150 miles from Dallas.

“The innovative research conducted by Texas A&M University, the small-town feel, and the sense of community that is clear from the minute you arrive in town all make it a very special place,” Amazon said in a statement.

The MK27-2 drone design has previously been revealed as the drone prototype that Amazon will use for the pilot program. As orders will be picked up and operated from a local warehouse, the goal is to have some orders delivered in under an hour as buyers track the status of their delivery from the minute they make the payment.

As with the first Prime Air location in California, testing in College Park will begin at an unspecified date while the date such delivery will be made available for every local Amazon user is currently even more nebulous.

“Being one of the first drone delivery locations for Amazon puts College Station at the forefront of this exciting technology,” said John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System, in a statement.

Drones. Are They A Good Thing?

Drone deliveries have, for years, been presented as a more sustainable alternative to truck deliveries. They may also allow certain things to be delivered faster to more rural communities.

Some, however, have criticized corporations’ eagerness to be the first to make drone deliveries, arguing that more time should be taken to run certain safety tests and evaluate the potential problems that can arise when the deliveries are in the air.

Bloomberg previously reported that a number of testing crashes have pushed back the launch date of Prime Air.

Amazon previously said that, as current drones are unable to “sense and avoid other aircraft and obstacles,” it will need “visual observers along the route of every flight to help the drones avoid hazards.”

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