Amazon's drone delivery service finally took off with residents of Lockeford, California being the first to receive packages through the Prime Air program later this year.

The way the service works, according to Amazon (opens in a new tab), is that customers who live in Lockeford will start seeing items in the online store eligible for Prime Air delivery. You place an order as you normally would. You will then get a status tracker with an estimated time of arrival on command when the drone flies to its destination.

The drone will fly to a space above your backyard, find an area with no obstacles, and hover above the yard at a "safe height." The drone will then lower the package, drop it to the ground, and fly away.

Amazon has revealed a bit about the features of its drones, which other similar services don't really talk about. The company says the drones are equipped with a "sophisticated detection and avoidance system" to avoid obstacles. They can sense if something is moving or stationary, and then change course if necessary.

Amazon worked with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and regulators to make its drone delivery service possible. Looking at the images provided, the company had to go through many different prototypes before creating one that stuck.

That said, Amazon's brief description of its service leaves many fundamental questions unanswered.

For starters, what is considered a "safe height" for dropping off packages? What items are eligible for Prime Air and are they fragile? What if someone doesn't have a garden? Are Prime Air deliveries more expensive? Are they covered by the free shipping benefit for Amazon Prime customers? We reached out to Amazon to ask if they could clarify all of these questions and more, but as of this writing there has been no response.

Analysis: Hard to feel safe

While it's exciting to see this service finally, er, take off, the lack of detail and a patchy drone delivery record doesn't inspire much confidence.

Until now, Amazon has had problems with its drones. An April 2022 Bloomberg report (opens in a new tab) revealed that the team was facing technical and security issues. Amazon has also scaled back its international drone delivery program. According to a 2021 Wired report (opens in a new tab), Amazon shut down the Prime Air program in the UK after considerable domestic unrest.

Meanwhile, Walmart's own drone delivery service looks more promising. The company has partnered with technology company DroneUp to offer a delivery program that can reach four million American homes in six states. It flies seven days a week for 12 hours. Let's hope Amazon's checkered history with drones becomes a bad memory and its delivery service takes off.

Thinking of jumping into drones? TechRadar has a list of the best beginner drones for 2022.

Share This