7 things to know about Amazon drone delivery in California

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Three months ago today, Amazon announced that customers in Lockeford, California, will be the first to see Prime Air drones delivering packages in their backyards. The company is currently awaiting a decision from the regulators on the possible environmental impact of its operations. But, in the meantime, here’s a lowdown on how Amazon plans to operate its commercial delivery drones in California.

1. Amazon drone delivery center location

The Prime Air Drone Delivery Center is located in an industrial area in Lockeford, within San Joaquin County. The facility includes a warehouse building with office space, a ground control station, an aircraft maintenance area, a battery storage area, parking, truck loading areas, as well as paved departure and arrival pads. The closest residential neighborhood is approximately 0.5 miles from this site. And the maximum distance an Amazon drone has been allowed by the FAA to travel from this site is four miles.

2. Drone takeoff and landing

According to Amazon, the Lockeford drone delivery center is divided into four sectors, with each sector featuring one takeoff and landing pad with its own dedicated operating area that can support up to five flights per hour. Only one aircraft in each sector will be airborne at any time.

3. Time of operations

Amazon drone delivery operations will occur during daylight hours. Delivery flights may occur during evening hours, but not before nighttime and never after 10 p.m. No nighttime deliveries are anticipated.

4. Maximum flights in a day

Amazon estimates that it will operate a maximum of 200 delivery flights from the Lockeford site per operating day, up to five days per week. As such, the company is targeting no more than 260 operating days and 52,000 delivery operations per year.

5. Features of Amazon delivery drone

The Prime Air delivery drone is a hybrid multicopter/fixed-wing drone that uses electric power from rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. It is launched vertically using powered lift and converts to using wing lift during en-route flight. Amazon’s delivery drone has an empty weight of 87 pounds and can carry packages weighing up to five pounds to eligible delivery locations.

Read: Matternet M2 first delivery drone to receive FAA design safety approval

6. Flying altitude and delivery route

Once launched, the Prime Air drone will rise to an altitude below 400 feet above ground level (AGL) and follow a preplanned route to its delivery site. The drone will typically fly en route at approximately 160-180 feet AGL at an airspeed of 50-60 knots, except when descending to drop a package. Its preplanned route will be optimized to avoid terrain and other obstructions such as areas of high aircraft traffic, as well as areas where people may gather in large numbers such as highways, parks, and schools.

7. How packages will be delivered

Packages will be carried internally in the drone’s fuselage and dropped by opening a set of payload doors on the aircraft. When making a delivery, the Amazon drone will descend and the package will be dropped to the ground from approximately 13 feet AGL. The Prime Air aircraft will not touch the ground in any other place than the drone delivery center (except during emergency landings). After the package is dropped, the drone will climb vertically and follow the preplanned route to return for landing at the drone delivery center.

Read: An inside look at Amazon’s drone delivery system, flight-testing facilities

According to a preliminary report by the FAA, Amazon’s drone delivery operations should not have any significant impact on the environment. However, the federal agency is inviting feedback from members of the public who may be affected by Prime Air’s proposed operations.

If all goes well, the Amazon drone delivery service in California will start before the end of this year.

Read: New research dives deep into American attitudes on drone delivery

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