Retail giant Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) finally unveiled its top-secret delivery drones, to a much younger audience than might be expected.
The company, whose drone-focused lab is located in Cambridge, England, allowed a handful of fifth graders to tour its facility recently. From Cambridge News:
In a world exclusive, the News was given a tour of their workshop today in Castle Park, just off Castle Street, along with eight children from the Year 5 class at Steeple Morden School.
We were shown around the laboratory which has been nestled just a stone’s throw from the city centre unbeknown to the general public for several years.
Amazon took the opportunity to show off its drones while simultaneously looking to spur interest in science and engineering for local students:
Kristen Kish, corporate communications for Prime Air, told the News: “We’re continuing to do more and more in Cambridgeshire. It’s continuing to be an area of significance and importance for Amazon. We want to get the talent and want to encourage science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with students here, it’s just so important we’re promoting that science.
As for the drones themselves, Amazon is working on several different prototypes. Currently, the company is targeting drone delivery of packages weighing 4.5 pounds or less — which covers about 87% of the items that Amazon sells. The delivery range so far is reported at 15 miles.
The drones use sophisticated technology to locate their delivery targets and avoid obstacles along the way:
The drone uses GPS coordinates to find its delivery destination and will fly to a maximum height of 400ft before identifying a marker for it to land and deliver the package using a ‘sense and avoid’ system.
While the drone fleet will be automated, a safety operator will oversee the devices via a tracking system similar to what’s used by air traffic controllers to monitor commercial and military airplanes — although Amazon’s drones fly much lower.
The company won’t say when it expects to roll drone delivery out to consumers, but noted it will have to wait until it’s “able to demonstrate safe operations.” But given that Amazon has now officially pulled back the curtain on the devices, it’s safe to say a launch can’t be too far in the future.
Amazon shares fell $1.78 (-0.22%) to $821.18 in premarket trading Monday. Year-to-date, AMZN has gained 21.76%, versus a 4.54% rise in the benchmark S&P 500 during the same period.