In June 2022 Amazon began rolling out its new fleet of delivery drones in the town of Lockeford, California. And despite a few teething problems, the ecommerce giant looks set to introduce its Prime Air service across the U.S within months. But what exactly is drone delivery — and when can we expect it to arrive on British shores?
Like something out of a science fiction movie, drone delivery utilises unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver packages across a set geographical area. Similar to the drones that are commonly used for aerial photography today, these vehicles are small, manoeuvrable, and a far more eco-friendly option than conventional delivery trucks. Unlike most existing drones, though, those trusted with valuable packages need to be programmed to sense and avoid obstacles, which is why the tech has taken longer to develop.
Currently, Amazon Prime Air works by sending customers a unique QR code which they place outside their home. And this acts like a beacon to the incoming drone, guiding it to its destination. Once on target, the vehicle will descend to a height of a few feet and dispatch the package to the ground.
Of course, this method of delivery has both its proponents and its detractors. To some, it’s a convenient and economic way to deliver packages quickly to customers around the world. But to others, it’s a potentially dangerous new technology that is taking jobs from human workers — and has the capacity to go horribly wrong.
Despite these misgivings, though, it seems inevitable that Amazon Prime Air, or some version of drone delivery, will soon come to our shores. In fact, trial journeys were being carried out in Britain as early as summer 2016. But when can we expect it to be rolled out on a grander scale?
According to reports, a consortium of UK-based companies is currently developing Project Skyway: a drone superhighway that will connect the cities of Oxford, Cambridge, Rugby, Milton Keynes and Coventry. And it’s just part of a large-scale government project that aims to have some 900,000 drones in the sky by 2030 — a huge operation that would dramatically shift the delivery market in the UK. In the meantime, we can expect Project Skyway to be operational by mid-2024, which isn’t too long to wait for the future to arrive.