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Amazon unveils its vision of future delivery …by drone

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Online retailer Amazon is looking to a future of automated delivery using airborne drones.

In as little as five years time, Amazon Prime Air deliveries could be made in the US within half an hour of ordering using small unmanned aerial vehicles. A video now available on the Amazon website shows a parcel being sent via a small drone, looking not unlike a large buzzing bee emerging from the hive of an Amazon warehouse and landing in the recipient’s garden, dropping off the parcel before taking off to return.

The company says it is now waiting for the US Federal Aviation Administration to set the rules for unmanned aerial vehicles before launching such a service. The technology, it says, has been developed in its R&D labs and will be ready to go into commercial operation as soon as it gets the goahead, which it hopes will be early in 2015. It says that safety will be its top priority.

It looks like science fiction, but it’s real, ” said Amazon, predicting that, “One day Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today.”

Our view: Coming as it does hard on the heels of exposés of life working in an Amazon fulfilment centre both in the BBC’s Panorama programme and in the Observer, this story has it all. From the robots that replace work done by real people, and drones that fly through American airspace, it’s hard to see this as more than a Cyber Monday marketing gimmick. And yet it is persuasively possible. Something for the long-term, we’d predict, and well beyond 2015.

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