The world’s largest online retailer is ramping up its drone program, with Amazon revealing plans to fly goods to suburban backyards in America, the United Kingdom and Italy.
And the Australian aerospace veteran in charge of its drone program says he is committed to seeing flying deliveries expand Down Under, even though they are yet to be added to the company’s launch schedule.
Amazon’s growing drone delivery plans comes as Google ramps up its own, flying coffee, food and grocery deliveries in Queensland, and as the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority starts consultation on relaxing some Australian drone restrictions.
Amazon announced growing plans for drones at its Delivering the Future event in Seattle, where Prime Air vice-president David Carbon revealed six months of testing its new model, the Mark 30, had given the company greater confidence to expand.
“This autonomous, electric masterpiece of technology will deliver packages about the size of a shoebox, weighing five pounds (2.25kg) or less to our customers in under 60 minutes,” he said.
“While the size and weight might sound small … it represents the vast percentage of what our customers want in under two hours.”
Mr Carbon, originally from Broadmeadows in Victoria, said the new drone model was 40 per cent quieter than the one it replaced and was equipped with “sense and avoid technology” which could detect unexpected obstacles such as pets, vehicles and trees “100 per cent of the time”.
The technology had allowed the drones to land goods in smaller backyards and deliver to apartment buildings, he said, and would let Amazon bring drone services to more markets.
“By the end of next year, we’ll be using the Mark 30 to launch deliveries from a third US location and we’ll be opening premier sites in Italy and the UK,” Mr Carbon told AAP.
“We don’t have a specific answer about when we get to Australia, but our intention is to take it to all the environments where we have customers and Australia is one of those.
“I don’t intend to be exiting this job until we do bring this around the world and Australia is definitely part of our plans.”
Mr Carbon said Amazon was still targeting 500 million drone deliveries a year by 2030 with safety “magnitudes higher than driving to the store”.
Google offshoot Wing is also testing drone deliveries in two US states and in Australia, where it closed its Canberra operations this year but expanded drone flights in the suburbs of Logan and Ipswich in Queensland.
The service, which has paired with DoorDash, delivers drinks, meals, medication and grocery items to customers in 17 suburbs.
Australian regulator CASA also opened new discussions about drone rules this week, inviting pilots to have their say on remote operation, particularly in regional areas.
* Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson travelled to the US as a guest of Amazon.