Amazon Shows Off New Prime Air Drone With Hybrid Design


Amazon delivered a lovely update on its ‘Prime Air’ project today — almost exactly two years after it showed the first iteration of its drone. You know, the flying delivery dronethat some thought was a massive joke meant for April 1st. Included are some high-res shots and two new videos.The video, moderated by ex-Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson (who is now working on a new series for Amazon), talks about the design and your experience as a recipient:

As you can see, Amazon has now moved to a hybrid design. It looks much bigger than in previous renderings. Imagine that thing flying towards the neighbor’s house. Get ready for reports of aliens rising if this thing ever comes to fruition.

The new Prime Air drone isn’t just a quadcopter anymore. It still takes off and lands vertically, but then it switches to a regular horizontal flight mode, which is far more efficient. It’s basically part helicopter, part airplane. With this new design, the drone can cover over 15 miles and fly over 55 mph, Amazon says. In the video, Clarkson says Amazon is working on a family of drones for different environments and purposes.

The new drones feature at least some degree of sense-and-avoid technology and once it arrives at its intended location, it’ll scan the area and look for a landing spot. Right now, it looks like users will be able to mark this spot in their yard, for example, with an Amazon logo. The drone then lands, drops off the package and takes off again.

“This design enables it to fly long distances efficiently and go straight up and down in a safe, agile way. It is one of many prototype vehicles we have developed,” an Amazon spokesperson told us. “One day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road.”

Obviously, Amazon still has a few hurdles to climb, even with this new design. Chances are, we won’t see these new drones deliver packages in a city anytime soon. The new design, however, should work really well in a more rural and suburban area (and yes, feel free to leave us a comment about how you would shoot it down if it flew over your house).

If Amazon can solve some of the harder sense-and-avoid issues (like small power lines), then maybe Prime Air will take off sooner than many of use expected (assuming Amazon manages to work within the FAA’s upcoming regulations for commercial drones).

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  • 4385b0b2d65bd2646b28989bc8940f8b61d3b4a7_hq.gifdsc_6817.jpg

    Am I the only one who though of this?

  • @rob, I agree with you. the first scenario can be down town deliveries where distances are short and volumes are high and the 'value' of documents and it's urgency is significant. they are ideal to replace bicycle couriers.

  • Why do we need to deliver stuff these days?  I thought it was all going to be downloaded and 3D printed... :p

  • Press Release: UPS Introduces 30 Second Rocket Delivery

    In an answer to Amazon's plans to deliver packages by drone, UPS has decided to use rocket power for their delivery platform. A spoke person for the new Inter-Carrier Ballistic Messenger service, ICBM for short, noted that "rockets are way faster than airplanes and they look cool too." Also of note was that, although the rocket is not reusable, it is biodegradable and easily composted. So why wait minutes for a package when you can have it in seconds. Just press the launch button when you buy and look to the sky.


  • Publicity stunts to pump up the company to the naive investor. Weather related factors will keep this from being deployed in any reliable way. So, does anyone honestly believe, given the current political climate on this planet, that cargo laden aircraft are going to have access to the airspace over our cities? No way and definitely not with those airframes shown in this post. We have a hard enough time getting folks through security at the airport.

  • I completely agree with John on this. Stupid and dangerous idea with numerous issues that can't adequately be resolved yet with today's tech, even if their is a "perceived market" for the service. A pony express service should be much more viable to local depots though, but the package contents nearly never have any reason to be be expedited in such a fashion. 

    But the more interesting fact is that the seemingly "insignificant" airfoil area is enough to sustain level flight at speed. It's also good to see them ditching the tilt rotor designs, they just need to chop some props off to make the quad component less draggy! The framing of the props is unfortunate but not insurmountable if you consider the frontal area of the frame is not substantial in forward flight mode, the side view makes it look worse than it is.

    Framing for prop safety comes at a cost because even socially lobotomized customers don't like loosing digits before they can use their urgently delivered, fresh incarnation iPhone, to update the world via social media on their latest purchase and it's "hi-tech" form of delivery. 

    One stupid idea perpetuating another.... ;-)

  • @Rob_Lefebvre drone deliveries in this form, i agree, it would probably only make sense as a b2b. As i was reading the comments and thinking about the drone deliveries i also got a conclusion. A drone that delivers ordinary products to mass consumer market, that Amazon offers, had to be almost a cardboard like construction. Ultra cheap, with a security deposit that one could hold and return later. The obvious problem would be the lipo on board so this idea would have to wait for a technological revolution in UAV power supply system (maybe a future advancement in Power over Wifi solution), and probably a new propulsion system as well. Anyway this is great that Amazon is funding some research on drone delivery system. It is a bold idea, and one day it may become a reality. 

    @Ouroboros yeah, most of yachties are probably very rich people, and they can afford a food supply like this. Also a tanker uses about 260 gallons of oil in one hour (about $750 ?). If it has to change its course the cost is big. Enter a drone, and there could be real live profit for them. Not mentioning many other applications like search and rescue...

  • Food delivery to yachties in a harbor might work if you had a google style cargo winch, else you need an inflatable life preserver around your cargo...

  • Greg, I've been saying that drone deliveries only make sense for Business-to-Business which can have secured landing zones.  And your idea about ship deliveries is perfect. 

    Also imagine replacing all the bicycle couriers.  Drones can fly roof-top to roof-top in the downtown areas, ferrying around all those legal documents, etc.

  • The layout seems odd for the intended purpose though. If the lift props don't align with the frame , you get drag, and the upper frame gets in the way so you don't have clean air. Tilt rotor quad (or quad-like with counterrotatig props as an octo) with fixed wings would seem to be easier to implement, especially if you can embed the battery packs into the wings, which should be easier at that scale.

    I think people are forgetting that Amazon has their mechanical turk service. Get humans to do landing go/no go and minor remote guidance/hinting for the autopilot would be simple over a cellular connection (3G GSM spec has minimal videocall capability built-in, though nobody seems to use it much).

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