• Richard Westcott - bbc.co.uk

New trials for delivering goods by drones


The government's getting together with the retail giant Amazon to start testing flying drones that can deliver parcels to your door.

Amazon's paying for the programme, which will look at the best way to allow hundreds of robotic aircraft to buzz around Britain's skies safely.

The company claims it'll eventually mean small parcels will arrive at your house within 30 minutes of ordering them online.

Ministers say they want to pave the way for all businesses to start using the technology in future, but they will still have to convince the public that having automated drones flying around is both safe and won't invade people's privacy.

Three big problems

The trials will look at cracking three big problems:

  • How can you operate drones safely beyond "line of sight"? The current rules say a pilot has to be able to see the aircraft at all times

  • How can you build a drone that won't bump into things? Much like autonomous cars it would need sensors to help it avoid objects

  • How can you build a system where one pilot is responsible for many drones?

The government says the work will help it draw up new rules and regulations for the future, so that all companies can take advantage of drone technology, which it claims could eventually be worth billions.

Amazon says it is conducting the trials in Britain, because the regulations are more flexible than in other countries.

How will they work?

A number of systems are being tried, but the current favourite seems to be a machine that's part airplane and part helicopter.

It can fly at 50mph (80km/h) for 10 miles (16km) or more away from base, at a height of around 350ft (100m).

When it reaches the delivery address, it comes down vertically onto a special landing mat that the buyer will place on their property. So you could have parcels popped into your back garden for security.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36887325

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