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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  • Moderator

    @ Bojan 

    Sorry, but in the real world these WILL be a prime target (pun intended), A simple net or a baseball bat is all that's needed to stop one lifting off, the batteries, motors and props alone are hundreds of dollars. The electronics would be removed and smashed. it does not matter that Amazon know who ordered the book or where the drone went to! by the time anyone got to the site the bad guys will be long gone and so will the parts from the drone. 

    Dont get me wrong , I do not  condone drone trapping or harvesting and I am a law abiding citizen. but be honest there are some people out there that are not so honest and will see this as a gift from heaven. 

  • Moderator
    It will be interesting to see how they solve the BIG problem. Kidnapping! Buy a book delivered by drone . Receive book, batteries, motors, props, esc, gps etc,etc for the same price. Thank you Amazon that's better pricing than HK.
  • It look terrible.. but
    "We are testing many different vehicle designs and delivery mechanisms to discover how best to deliver packages in a variety of environments. We have more than a dozen prototypes that we’ve developed in our research and development labs. The look and characteristics of the vehicles will evolve over time." ;)

  • Moderator

    Its ROI on Jeremy Clarkson. How the mighty have fallen. I have found myself becoming increasingly angry today at just how ridiculous this advert is!

  • Developer

    Well I assume since they've spent 2 years and bucket load of money on this, there must be some plan. The entire body is probably made to generate lift, and if nothing else there is definitively some lift in the front and back wings and spinning propellers. Anything else just doesn't make any sense.

  • You think that's it John?  Just to put something around the props.  The way I see it, they're just making it heavier, and it can still hit you in the head.

    I think this is just an excuse to lock up a bunch of patents.  

  • Developer

    One reason for the frame to consider is propeller protection. Makes sense since they aim to land in populated areas.

  • Developer

    Yes, I agree with Rob and others here. That huge frame around the quad seems a bit counter productive.  As a minimum it will make control worse because of the extra weight far from the COG.  If it's not adding lift it's a bit unclear why it's there.  If it's the first step towards a Quad-Plane (like Tridge is building) then it makes sense.

    Anyway, great to see Amazon trying to make drone-delivery a reality!

  • @rob, this is not getting lift because of wings. it' s quadcopter with a horizontal  pusher prop. so it cannot be called a Hybrid. simple quadcopter.  a very small pusher propeller. I wonder about the aerodynamics. should cause lot of turbulence and thus aerodynamic inefficiency. they could have easily incorporated small wings and that would have reduced power load on the quad motors.

  • Or 'rush' courier services in the central business districts, where businesses are already willing to pay to shave minutes off deliveries, and traffic could be bypassed (or 'overpassed')

    Then again, those bike couriers are not to be messed with.


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