Amazon says it is just months away from launching its drone delivery service (make of that what you will), and it has marked the occasion by revealing a brand new aircraft to do the job. The company's latest robotic flying courier is a little different to those it has shown off before, and features upgraded navigation software claimed to better help it find its way.
We've seen a few iterations of Amazon's unmanned aircraft since it first laid out its drone delivery plans back in 2013. Its Prime Air service is still just an idea, but if it does materialize could see Amazon customers have packages weighing under 5 lb (2.2 kg) dropped off by drone within 30 minutes.
The new version unveiled at Amazon's re:MARS (Machine Learning, Automation, Robotics and Space) Conference in Las Vegas carries over the hybrid flight capabilities of the last drone, which was revealed in 2015. It can take off and land vertically like a helicopter and then transition to horizontal flight like an airplane. It does this by simply tilting its body forward so that the propellor guards actually turn into wings of sorts, making for more efficient movement through the air. It also has more options when choosing a flight path, with six degrees of freedom instead of a typical four.
Amazon says it has also incorporated new artificial intelligence tech to help the drone find its way. With updated sensors, stereo vision and reworked algorithms, the company says the aircraft is better at automatically detecting and avoiding stationary objects such as a chimney, and will also be better at finding a landing spot without getting tangled up in powerlines and the like.
The company has previously put its aircraft to the test in the US and the UK, while continuously looking to improve on the technology through a range of patents that describe things like drones that launch from moving trains, urban towers and lamp posts. It now says it is ready to start delivering packages with its drones within months, but save for some kind of miracle transformation in aviation policy, that timeline seems wildly optimistic.
You can check out a test flight of its latest drone in the short video below.
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