Courtesy of Amazon

The first of many, e-commerce giant says.

By Don Reisinger
December 14, 2016
December 14, 2016

Amazon has successfully delivered its first package with a drone.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tweeted on Wednesday that Amazon last week successfully completed its first drone delivery as part of its Prime Air initiative. The package was delivered to a customer in the Cambridge area of England on Dec. 7, and made it to the person’s house just 13 minutes after the order was placed.

In a video describing the trial, Amazon AMZN says that trial customers around Cambridge are able to choose from “thousands of items” from its online store that are in stock at a Prime Air fulfillment center near their homes. Amazon employees place the ordered products into a Prime Air box and place it inside the drone. The electric drone then moves across a track outside the fulfillment center, and once all safety checks are completed by a person, they take off. According to Amazon, the drones take off, deliver products, and return on their own with no human involvement.

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On the trip, the drones, using GPS to find their way, fly at no higher than 400 feet. Amazon is promising drone delivery within 30 minutes.

The idea for drone delivery through Prime Air was announced by Bezos in 2013. Since then, Amazon has been working with regulators to start testing the service, which could eventually see drones replace delivery services from traditional logistics companies.

Amazon relies heavily on the likes of UPS and FedEx to deliver packages to customers. And in recent years, Amazon has shown some interest in reducing its reliance on third-party companies to deliver packages. The move could ultimately save Amazon on shipping costs.

There are some limitations to a rapid Prime Air rollout. For one, most regulators around the world still have not yet finalized safety regulations on drones that would ultimately impact how Amazon could operate its service. And since drones can only travel so far, Amazon will need to establish strategically placed logistics buildings around the world to accommodate orders. Moreover, Prime Air drones can currently only carry packages of five pounds or less, leaving many of the items Amazon sells unable to be shipped by the method.

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Still, a successful first delivery is a step in the right direction for Amazon, and the company says it plans to expand the trial in the coming months. For now, it’s working with just two customers as part of the trial, but plans to expand the number to “dozens of customers” who live within an unidentified number of miles from its Prime Air facility. Once that trial is complete, Amazon hopes to add hundreds more customers to the trial.

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