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How do you get items to customers quickly, cost-effectively, and safely? While flying a light payload a short distance within line of sight can be simple, building a network that can deliver to customers across large communities is a complex challenge.
Online retail giant Amazon has announced that it would launch its inaugural long-waited drone delivery service in the town of Lockeford, California, later this year after it receives the green light from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The company’s customers living in Lockeford will become among the first to receive Prime Air deliveries within the framework of a long-delayed delivery project. The residents will get the opportunity to sign up for free drone delivery on thousands of everyday items. Their feedback about the service, with drones delivering packages in their backyards, will help Amazon improve the service.
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Amazon has developed a sophisticated sense-and-avoid system that will enable operations beyond line of sight without visual observers and allow their drone to operate at greater distances while safely and reliably avoiding other aircraft, people, pets, and obstacles.
According to the company’s announcement, its sense-and-avoid system has been designed for two main scenarios: to be safe when in transit, and to be safe when approaching the ground. When flying to the delivery location, the drones need to be able to identify static and moving obstacles. Amazon’s algorithms use a diverse suite of technologies for object detection. Using this system, the drone can identify a static object in its path, like a chimney. It can also detect moving objects on the horizon, like other aircraft, even when it’s hard for people to see them. If obstacles are identified, the drone will automatically change course to safely avoid them. As the drone descends to deliver the package into a customer’s backyard, it ensures that there’s a small area around the delivery location that’s clear of any people, animals, or other obstacles.
According to theverge.com, the program has been beset by problems in recent years, including five crashes over the course of a four-month period at the company’s testing site in Oregon. Amazon argued that safety was a top priority.
Drone deliveries were supposed to revolutionize the movement of goods around cities, with companies like Amazon, Wing, and Uber promising to set up large-scale operations in the near future. Instead, the technology has mainly focused on small-scale experiments, delivering vaccines and blood to remote locations. In the US, drone delivery has generally been limited to smaller towns, where land usage is less crowded and complex, claims theverge.com.