Dive Brief:

  • Amazon announced a new drone design at its re:MARS (Machine Learning, Automation, Robotics and Space) conference in Las Vegas, aimed at facilitating faster last-mile deliveries to consumers.
  • The hexagonal drone can fly for up to 15 miles, reach consumer locations within 30 minutes and carry parcels of up to five pounds.
  • Amazon said it expects to deliver packages to consumers via drone “within months.” It did not specify where or when it would test the drone.

Dive Insight:

Amazon’s gung-ho attitude toward speed takes another step with the introduction of its latest drone. “Can we deliver packages to customers even faster? We think the answer is yes,” Amazon Worldwide Consumer​ CEO Jeff Wilke wrote in a blog post about the new drone, adding one of the pathways to “faster” is through drone technology.

The e-tailer recently raised the bar for speedy logistics with the introduction of one-day delivery. “We’re able to do this because we spent 20 plus years expanding our fulfillment and logistics network,” Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky said at the time of the announcement. Likewise, Amazon said it plans to use its “world-class fulfillment and delivery network” to scale up Prime Air and make deliveries using the drone within months.

Amazon Worldwide Consumer​ CEO Jeff Wilke stands beside the new drone at re:MARS this week in Las Vegas.

Amazon touted the high-tech and safety features of its newest (and so far nameless) drone. The device has a hybrid design, meaning it takes off and lands vertically like a helicopter and flies horizontally like an airplane. It uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer vision to detect and adjust for moving objects.

Technology, however, has rarely been the barrier to widespread drone deployment. Rather, strict regulations around U.S. air space have challenged companies to develop drones that are innovative but also in compliance.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sees a future with robust commercial drone usage. It projected these devices could triple by 2023. The agency has launched initiatives to help facilitate the growth of the drone market and last month, the FAA granted permission for Alphabet’s Wing Aviation to begin drone delivery, the first time a U.S. company has been given clearance to deliver goods by drone.