back to article Amazon unveils new drone design, plans liftoff of aerial delivery in UK, Italy

Amazon on Thursday released photos of its newest delivery drone, the MK 30, and announced will expand its Prime Air drone delivery operations to Italy, the UK, and an unnamed American city in 2024. “The new locations add to our existing drone delivery operations in the U.S., where we’ve been using drones to safely deliver …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Attack of the drones

    Imagine living close to an Amazon take-off and landing flight path.

    Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz 24/7?

    1. lamp

      Re: Attack of the drones

      Not over my house, please.

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Attack of the drones

        "Not over my house, please."

        Not sure how they would manage flight paths.

        The options are either

        - follow roads / pavements and public paths, like this they're not flying over anyone's property except their own and whoever they are delivering to. The drawback here is that a failure would highly likely lead to accidents / injuries since any falling parcels / drones would fall onto places where you would expect humans and vehicles to be.

        - avoid roads as much as possible (they surely would have to cross roads, railway lines etc to effect deliveries), since that gives easier access and shorter paths.

        I don't know what the statutory limit on 'airspace' is for a private property. Clearly not infinite, and might vary from place to place, but surely there is a height above which it's legal to fly, and you can't really do anything about it.

        1. Lurko

          Re: Attack of the drones

          For "normal" drones, up to and including 150kg monsters, some of the rules are no less than 150m from buildings, 50m from people, never above crowds, shopping centres etc. That would stop the overwhelming majority of drone delivery flights, but you can get an exemption to these rules by having an Operational Safety Case approved by the CAA. Given the skill, legality and professionalism exhibited by their van drivers, it seems obvious to me that Amazon are not a fit and proper organisation to fly drones, but I'm sure their lobbyists will press for special treatment, and their legal department will expertly fill in the paperwork.

          Whether it's economic to meet OSC requirements I can't say, but they are stringent and I'd have thought that parcel delivery wasn't a high enough value task to justify the expense of compliance.

          1. Peter-Waterman1

            Re: Attack of the drones

            IMO Amazon is on a mission to use fast delivery times to kill off all competition. While the cost of delivery may go up with drones, it will also have the effect of killing off competitors who haven't invested.

            1. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

              Re: Attack of the drones

              Yep, that's how competition works, not got a problem with that. And yes, if it gets something I want urgently to my door quicker, I would be prepared to use one.

              That said, the notion of fleets of these things whizzing around doesn't fill me with optimism. The sheer number of things that could - and will - go wrong is mind boggling, and that's before you start to consider sabotage. This is going to be fun! :)

        2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: Attack of the drones

          Never mind road accidents, what happens after the first one causes a train derailment? They will have to cross railway lines after all. Train rivers are relatively sanguine about pigeons on the line, but a 100kg drone would be something else entirely. not to mention the extremely high voltage in electrified rail cables (literally enough to vaporise a human if you get hold if it - there is a particularly gruesome video shown to all staff, I'm told).

          Anyway, it is inevitable as it is officially 'progress', so probably time to buy a harder hat.

  2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    Only clocked 100 flights total? Or 100 'problem-free' flights? If the second then how many flights ended *with* an incident?

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

      Don't worry, stay where you are, and stay calm. The "returns" drones will be with you in but a few minutes.

  3. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    5 metres clearance?

    Good luck getting that much clearance in 99% of UK urban/suburban gardens. My Garden is 8 metres wide and 8 metres long but has 2 trees, a covered deck, a shed and a greenhouse so zero chance there, and mine is fairly large for a suburban garden, let alone an urban one.

    1. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: 5 metres clearance?

      It's even worse than that, because it's 5 meters on either side. Therefore, at 8 meters wide, you wouldn't have the required clearance even if it was flat. I literally don't know of any private space owned by an individual, except for some super-rich's villa, that would have any spot that satisfies that requirement. Hopefully the new drone is more accurate.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 5 metres clearance?

        well, they can open 'local fulfilment centres', with a fleet of scooters, and claim it all as a 'drone-based delivery service' ;)

    2. Lurko

      Re: 5 metres clearance?

      Not forgetting trees, overhead wires, washing lines, ham radio aerials. Difficult to see a use-case for drones in parcel delivery in the UK - in practice they're not so good for heavier stuff, they're not going to be able to carry many consignments, they're unsuitable for dense urban areas, and the proposed type don't look as though they'd have the range to cover rural areas very well, and there's quite a sizeable area of restricted airspace because even airfields without runways or just doing a few glider launches have exclusion zones almost the same size as major international airports. Factor in unfavorable weather and unpredictable things like air ambulance, police, survey helicopters, public events (which drones aren't permitted to overfly), and it starts to seem a very fringe opportunity. It would be interesting to see how many got lost to dog attacks, I suppose.

      Of course, if my dobuts are wrong and it does "get off the ground" and we see reasonably widespread use, you know it's going to end up like those crapola battery scratter-scooter rentals, with them getting lost on pavements, roads, hedgerows and in trees, forlornly awaiting somebody to come and retrieve them.

    3. jmch Silver badge

      Re: 5 metres clearance?

      I think they're designed more with US suburbs in mind, lots of space between houses, lots of lawn space, very little foot traffic

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 5 metres clearance?

        Except that these plans are for the UK, and Italy.

        In the US I understand, things are different, and it'll probably also be legal to shoot down drones over your own property, and for the drone to carry guns and shoot back. Give it a few years and USAians will probably be able to order a high-school-shooting-as-a-service using drones.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: 5 metres clearance?

          Absolutely no idea how this will work in Italy where over half the population live in a flat (apartment in USAian).

          1. BebopWeBop

            Re: 5 metres clearance?

            That is the reason for the optional Bazooka mounted on the drone. 'We called, but you were out, so....'

            1. Dan 55 Silver badge

              Re: 5 metres clearance?

              ... we launched a 77" TV through your living room window.

            2. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

              Re: 5 metres clearance?

              Perhaps Bezos is worried that Elon will win the consumer war with his space rockets and self driving cars, so he's making certain Amazon's drone army can fly better?

        2. ravenviz Silver badge

          Re: 5 metres clearance?

          “legal to shoot down drones over your own property”

          In UK that will only be legal with a crossbow!

    4. Sykowasp

      Re: 5 metres clearance?

      I don't think the drones are meant for you.

      They're meant for people who live slightly off the beaten track, who are messing up with the delivery van routing, i.e., fewer deliveries per mile/hour, which is inefficient.

  4. excperr

    I'm suprised amazon has to abide by airspace rules... no other rules seem to apply to them.

    1. pdh

      > I'm suprised amazon has to abide by airspace rules... no other rules seem to apply to them.

      No, that's Twitter...

  5. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    The fence

    Imagine a drone could lift the delivery courier over the fence, so that you don't get woken up by them trying to open your gate and then smashing it on the way out.

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

      Re: The fence

      They could employ Yodel to throw them. Much cheaper.

  6. tiggity Silver badge

    Not viable in UK

    As mentioned. most people don't have that much "empty" flat space (lots have no garden at all).

    How will these drones comply with UK rules on the many, many areas drones are not allowed (unless operated by a licenced operator who has done the extra qualifications, and cost of an operator would make drone deliveries economically unfeasible compared to low pay (wo)man in a van that usually do amazon deliveries.

    And if UK waived rules on where a "self controlled" amazon drone was allowed to fly, then huge backlash from drone enthusiasts who lack those same flying rights.

    .. Never had a drone as technically illegal to fly one from anywhere within "my" garden area as anywhere within that small area breaks rules on flying within proximity to neighbouring private properties, so put me off trying a drone when cannot learn the ropes at home first.

    1. tony72

      Re: Not viable in UK

      It doesn't have to be viable for everybody, just for enough people to make it workable economically. In fact it's probably a plus if it's not viable for most people, in terms of the number of drones and the amount of flying needed. We've got space at work, and there's been plenty of times I could've done with an SSD or something being delivered in an hour.

      As for the regulations, the CAA seems to be quite keen on the idea; New trials move the UK closer to allowing everyday drone deliveries and flying beyond visual line of sight. So we could see the necessary regulations in place in the not too distant future.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not viable in UK

      while agree with you in principle, I imagine the 'not viable in UK' would have applied to those funny, smoke belching monsters on iron rails and perhaps all other not viable solutions that we already take for granted. Not that I'm keen on flying parcels, I think amazon brings the worst traits in humanity (other than murdering each other).

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Not viable in UK

      It's a service that can only be used by people who choose to opt in and have had a survey of their landing area carried out.

      So it won't be attempting to deliver to the 12th floor, flat b, Mandela House, Peckham. But would be fine for Rectory Cottage, Little Shitting, Berkshire.

      Unfortunately I probably won't get to enjoy it, I'll have to be content with being under 10 mile final for an international airport.

    4. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Not viable in UK

      People poor enough to live in flats or closely spaced small houses are easy enough to deliver to by van. I can see a use for van-carried drones in rural areas.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not viable in UK

      "And if UK waived rules on where a "self controlled" amazon drone was allowed to fly, then huge backlash from drone enthusiasts who lack those same flying rights."

      Correction: "tiny, easily ignored backlash". If all 450k drone users registered with CAA acted together then perhaps things will be different, but they didn't hinder government doing what it wanted when the current rules were introduced, so I'm guessing these people aren't big on reading and responding to consultations, or writing to their MPs.

    6. hairydog

      Re: Not viable in UK

      The drone rules are far less onerous for drones that weigh no more than 250g - and the DJI mini drones in that category are excellent.

  7. trevorde Silver badge

    New features of Mk30

    * deliver to wrong address

    * deliver 4hrs after delivery window

    * knock on door and leave 3s later

    * leave parcel in bin

    * leave parcel in plain sight

    * drop parcel from great height

    * deliver wrong parcel

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: New features of Mk30

      So, a better delivery service than Hermes, then?

    2. Lurko

      Re: New features of Mk30

      * get stuck in tree before delivery

      * get stuck in tree after delivery

      * get entangled in undocumented overhead telephone wires

      * get entangled in documented overhead power lines and cause local power cut

      * run out of juice and descend in muddy field

      * collide with bird life

      * excellent toy for large dogs

      * amusing target for bored yoof

      * get blown away in storms never to be seen again

      * lost in convective downdraught

      * zapped by lightning

      1. David Hicklin Bronze badge

        Re: New features of Mk30

        > collide with bird life

        Or get taken out by bird life.

        1. Spherical Cow Silver badge

          Re: New features of Mk30

          This has already happened in Canberra, Australia, during a delivery drone trial.

  8. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    11kV line along one perimeter and a 440V 3 phase local distributor across the middle, plus a dirty great walnut tree and a largish cotoneaster. No chance Jeffy.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hard not to think "gimmick"

    Along with driverless lorries and the other shiny crap that bedazzles our "news" agencies in the UK.

    The biggest problem no one is talking about is the fact that you would need a completely new strategy for choosing and establishing distribution centres.

    I've worked in logistics software. One of our Enterprise offerings was a suite that trawled your order profiles for the past <X> and worked out the most cost-effective location to site a national distribution hub.

    Which means currently all UK distribution centres were chosen exclusively for road deliveries.

    When we know the rules for drone deliveries, we can perform the same process. But until then ....

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can we open a book

    on where the first one goes missing from ?

    1. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: Can we open a book

      Target practice for ‘the yoof of today’.

      Same as kids chucking delivery robots into the canal - after Tesco trolley’s - or chav’s in their Halford’s Corsa’s hunting autonomous eV’s.

  11. Nifty Silver badge

    Something for country folk to do once the grouse season is over?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Let's hope so. Not for the joy it gives them, but to discourage the twerps who though this was a good idea..

  12. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

    2023 Model Santa's Sleigh

    How many cities in the US are still unnamed? I though they all got names a long time ago.

    Anyway, so what are the abilities of this obstacle detection technology? Would I still be able to fly a kite in the wind without the chance of one of these things getting entangled on the string and causing an unshielded airborne biltong slicer to come crashing down on me?

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: 2023 Model Santa's Sleigh

      Maybe they've run out of European city names to copy.

  13. BebopWeBop

    As good

    A reason for a shotgun license in the UK as any I have come across.

  14. david453

    Amazon's unveiling of a new drone design is an exciting development in the world of e-commerce and logistics. With plans to launch aerial delivery services in the UK and Italy, it's clear that Amazon is pushing the boundaries of innovation. These drones are not only impressive in design but also hold the potential to revolutionize delivery services, making them faster and more efficient. This move highlights the ever-evolving nature of the retail industry and the company's commitment to enhancing customer experiences through cutting-edge technology. It'll be interesting to see how this unfolds and the impact it has on the future of delivery services.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Thanks ChatGPT/Amazon PR.

      1. Lurko

        Amazon PR? No, not competent to do this. First post on the forum plus all the hallmarks of LLM? No, this is the work of a Register commentard.

        Come on, 'fess up!

  15. Omnipresent Bronze badge

    but have you seen?

    The new humanoid robots in their warehouses to replace their real humans?

    TERRIFYING. Probably the first of many. All evil, all the time.

  16. s. pam Silver badge

    It’ll beat DPD At the game of

    Throwing your parcels randomly all over the place!

  17. xyz Silver badge

    Well ....

    I tried to buy a drone the other week.. Just a wee one to survey my land with and OMG. I have to register with some bunch, ok no biggy, then I have to get approval for flight over my land as I'm in a protected natural space (if I wasn't then I have to be at least 8kms away from one), away from people, away from nuclear plants ( 2 nearby) , military places, beaches, airports, have to register as a data controller (because it has a camera), need to apply for approval for each flight (weeks in advance), must maibtain line of sight, cannot fly higher than 120m and have to actually to apply in person at some office somewhere and not online, so good luck Amazon, but you've a cat in hell's chance of flying that thing over Italy because the above rules are new and EU wide from 2020 (maybe 2022, cant remember)

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