Amazon has revealed its latest Prime Air drone design at a conference in Las Vegas.
The drone has a hybrid design. It can do vertical takeoffs and landings – like a helicopter. And it’s aerodynamic – like an airplane. It also easily transitions between these two modes – from vertical-mode to airplane mode, and back to vertical mode.
It’s fully shrouded for safety. The shrouds are also the wings, which makes it efficient in flight.
The distinctive aircraft is controlled with six degrees of freedom, as opposed to the standard four. This makes it more stable, and capable of operating safely in more gusty wind conditions.
The brief was to design fully electric drones that can fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes.
On Amazon’s blog the company says: “We know customers will only feel comfortable receiving drone deliveries if they know the system is incredibly safe. So we’re building a drone that isn’t just safe, but independently safe, using the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.”
The drone uses diverse sensors and advanced algorithms, such as multi-view stereo vision, to detect static objects like a chimney. To detect moving objects, like a paraglider or helicopter, the drone uses proprietary computer-vision and machine learning algorithms.
“A customer’s yard may have clotheslines, telephone wires, or electrical wires. Wire detection is one of the hardest challenges for low-altitude flights. Through the use of computer-vision techniques we’ve invented, our drones can recognise and avoid wires as they descend into, and ascend out of, a customer’s yard.”
The company also talked about the drone’s potential environmental impact: “Prime Air is one of many sustainability initiatives to help achieve Shipment Zero, the company’s vision to make all Amazon shipments net zero carbon, with 50% of all shipments net zero by 2030. When it comes to emissions and energy efficiency, an electric drone, charged using sustainable means, traveling to drop off a package is a vast improvement over a car on the road. Today, most of us run to the store because we need an item now. With a service like Prime Air, we’ll be able to order from home and stay home. This saves tremendously on fuel usage and reduces emissions.”