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Amazon unveils Prime Air drone prototype

The online e-commerce giant plans to deploy different unmanned aircraft systems for its planned 30-minute UAS delivery service depending on the environment.

   E-tailer Amazon unveiled a new prototype for its planned 30-minute drone delivery service on its website Sunday.
   The new drone prototype is the first Amazon has shown publicly since announcing plans for its Prime Air service two years ago. It combines features of a helicopter and airplane, including a rear-facing propeller, and, according to Amazon, the prototype can fly 15 miles with a maximum altitude of almost 400 feet.
   In a promotional video posted on its website, Amazon showed the drone storing a package within the fuselage rather than hanging below the vehicle as in a previous design. The company said in the video it plans to deploy different drones depending on the environment
   The Prime Air service will use small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds and flying under 400 feet – to deliver packages up to five pounds in 30 minutes or less. Amazon said its drones will be highly automated and equipped with what it calls “sense and avoid” technology, allowing the UASs to operate safely at distances of over 10 miles from their pilot’s line of sight.
   “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,” the company said in a statement.
   “Prime Air has great potential to enhance the services we already provide to millions of customers by providing rapid parcel delivery that will also increase the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation system,” it added. “Putting Prime Air into service will take some time, but we will deploy when we have the regulatory support needed to realize our vision.”
   Amazon said it is developing the Prime Air service at centers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel, and is testing the drones in multiple international locations.