Amazon is kicking its efforts to accelerate its aerial delivery activity hampered by repeated incidents into higher gear with the development of a new Prime Air drone due out in 2024 to offer quieter, robust, and safe performance.
Amazon says the new MK30 hexacopter will be both smaller and lighter than its current MK27-2 delivery drone, yet pack even more punch. Company engineers are designing it to be able to fly longer distances on a single charge, and withstand normally confounding flight conditions like rain, wind, and harsh temperatures.
Expected to come online in 2024 pending Federal Aviation Administration approval, the new Amazon craft will replace drones being readied to go into delivery service to customers in College Station, Texas, and Lockeford, California, later this year.
In addition to extra brawn, Amazon is building the MK30 delivery drone to also have enhanced onboard brains. When it enters service the automated UAV will be equipped with high-performance detect and avoid tech, enabling it to both identify and react to unexpected obstacles and continue its missions without incident.
“Our drones can encounter new, unexpected situations and still make safe decisions – autonomously and safely,” an Amazon press release notes. “We’ve created a sophisticated and industry-leading sense-and-avoid system that will allow our drones to operate at greater distances while safely and reliably avoiding other aircraft, people, pets, and obstacles.”
Demonstrating the security of its delivery drones has been a main focus at Amazon since its craft were involved in crashes – one resulting in a large fire – that drew considerable media attention and public notice.
Another big improvement Amazon says the MK30 will offer is a whopping 25% noise reduction compared to the MK27-2 – “a game-changer,” it believes, in attracting prospective drone delivery customers concerned about sound UAVs generate.
In addition to getting its occasionally stalled drone delivery program back up to full speed, Amazon is also moving to meet what’s expected to be a swiftly growing and increasingly contested sector.
Alphabet-owned Wing has been doing booming drone delivery business in Australia, and has recently moved to shift some of that momentum to its widening activity in the US.
Flytrex has similarly been expanding the number of clients and locations in its US aerial transport operations, while Irish company Manna has plans to use its domestic market success as a springboard for service launches in the European Union before heading stateside.
One obvious advantage Amazon will have over rivals is its focus on delivering orders of up to five pounds to clients of the company’s own marketplace – an enormous source of potential aerial activity just waiting to be tapped into. For that reason, Amazon Prime Air vice president David Carbon believes the company will be making 500 annual drone deliveries by the end of the decade.