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Amazon makes first customer delivery with drone

Amazon’s first-ever drone delivery is in the books, CEO Jeff Bezos tweeted on Wednesday.

The drone service – called Amazon Prime Air – promises to safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes.

A fully autonomous drone flew 13 minutes to deliver the service's first package, weighing 4.7 pounds, to a British man near Cambridge in the U.K.'s countryside. He ordered a Fire TV and a bag of popcorn. Watch the video of the delivery in the player above.

The delivery comes after years of skepticism and airspace regulations.

Amazon did not respond to KIRO 7’s questions about this project.

Federal Aviation Administration told KIRO 7 that Amazon, Wal-Mart, Google and Workhorse Group, Inc. received exemptions for delivery research and development.

So far, Amazon has publicly discussed field testing in countries outside the United States.

Thomas Hagen, the president of the Cascadia chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said there are more challenges in U.S. airspace.

“They’re a global company, first of all. Second of all, there are centers of excellence around the world doing unmanned systems work. That, coupled with the relaxed – more relaxed - regulatory environment in some of these other countries permits them to do more testing and evaluation,” Hagen said.

Still, he anticipates there will be drone delivery tests in rural parts of the U.S. within a couple of years.

In August, the FAA instituted rules for small drones transporting items for business:

-The drone, including cargo, must weigh less than 55 pounds total.

-The flight must occur within visual line of sight and not from a moving vehicle or aircraft.

-The flight must occur within state boundaries.

-Transportation by drone for businesses purposes is not allowed in Hawaii, the District of Columbia, or a territory or possession of the United States.

The FAA told KIRO 7 a rule to allow drone operation over people is planned to be released before the end of 2017. In 2017, the FAA plans to announce a rule for extended flights beyond the visual line of sight.

Amazon released this Q&A on its website about its drone service. 

Is this science fiction or is this real?

It looks like science fiction, but it's real. One day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road.

How will it work?

Amazon Prime Air is a service that will deliver packages up to five pounds in 30 minutes or less using small drones.

How are you going to ensure safety?

Safety is our top priority. Our vehicles will be built with multiple redundancies, as well as sophisticated “sense and avoid” technology. Additionally, through our private trial in the UK, we will gather data to continue improving the safety and reliability of our systems and operations.

When will I be able to choose Prime Air as a delivery option?

We will deploy when and where we have the regulatory support needed to safely realize our vision. We’re excited about this technology and one day using it to deliver packages to customers around the world in 30 minutes or less.

What will the Prime Air delivery vehicles look like?

We are testing many different vehicle designs and delivery mechanisms to discover how best to deliver packages in a variety of operating environments. The look and characteristics of the vehicles will continue to evolve over time.

Where are you building and testing?

We have Prime Air development centers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Austria and Israel. We are testing the vehicles in multiple international locations.

How will Amazon integrate Prime Air vehicles into the airspace?

We believe the airspace is safest when small drones are separated from most manned aircraft traffic, and where airspace access is determined by capabilities. To learn more, view our airspace proposals here and here.

Can you tell me more about the private trial you launched in the UK?

It’s an exciting new development. Through this private customer trial, we will gather data to continue improving the safety and reliability of our systems and operations, bringing us one step closer to realizing this amazing innovation for all our customers.

What kind of weather will you operate in during the trial?

We are currently permitted to operate during daylight hours when there are low winds and good visibility, but not in rain, snow or icy conditions. Once we’ve gathered data to improve the safety and reliability of our systems and operations, we will expand the envelope.

Will you run similar trials in other countries?

We are working with regulators and policymakers in various countries in order to make Prime Air a reality for our customers around the world, and expect to continue to do so.

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