In an exciting move, Amazon has announced its plans to introduce drone deliveries in the United Kingdom and Italy by late 2024, marking the first international expansion of its Prime Air delivery service. This ambitious initiative aims to take airborne package delivery to new heights, with a goal of delivering a staggering 500 million packages via drones annually by the end of this decade.
David Carbon, Amazon’s Vice President for Prime Air, unveiled this strategic expansion of the Prime Air service during a launch event at the company’s Seattle headquarters. Carbon expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “We are excited to announce the expansion of Prime Air delivery internationally, for the first time outside the US. We have built a safe, reliable delivery service and have partnered very closely with regulators and communities.”
Amazon’s drone-based delivery service was initially launched less than a year ago within select areas in California and Texas, and the company plans to introduce a third American location in the coming year. Amazon’s journey into drone deliveries began a decade ago when it first outlined its visionary plans to utilize drones for package delivery. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, shared his optimism about the concept, stating, “It will work, and it will happen, and it’s going to be a lot of fun” during an interview with 60 Minutes on CBS in 2013.
However, the path to realizing this vision was filled with challenges and regulatory hurdles. The Prime Air service only commenced operations late last year, and a May 2023 report by CNBC revealed that Amazon’s drones had conducted just 100 deliveries, falling significantly short of the company’s internal target of 10,000 for the year. According to Carbon, activity has increased since then, with “thousands” of packages being delivered by Amazon drones, serving “thousands of customers.”
Although the announcement of international expansion is a significant step forward for Amazon, specific details regarding the launch sites in the UK and Italy remain undisclosed. Amazon is planning to commence with one site in each country, with plans for expansion over time. As part of Amazon’s vision, the company will eventually deploy drones from numerous locations across the US, UK, and Italy to meet the growing demand for sustainable drone delivery services.
Baroness Vere, the UK Transport Minister, shared her excitement about Amazon’s announcement and highlighted the collaboration between government and industry to achieve the shared vision of integrating commercial drones into the UK by 2030.
Amazon showcased its latest drone model, the MK30, which is scheduled for use in the UK and Italy in 2024. This advanced drone does not require a dedicated delivery pad with a QR code, offering increased flexibility. The MK30 drone is designed to operate in light rain, heavier winds, and during the evening hours, a notable improvement from its predecessors. However, the deployment of such capabilities will depend on regulatory approvals.
In both the US and the UK, Amazon’s drone delivery operations will initially require observers and adherence to line-of-sight regulations, with the hope that expanded regulations permitting beyond visual line of sight operations will soon be implemented.
Amazon is actively addressing safety concerns raised by regulators and customers, with Carbon emphasizing that ordering a package delivered by an MK30 drone is “hundreds of times safer” than traveling to a store to make a purchase. This commitment to safety underscores Amazon’s dedication to shaping the future of delivery with innovative technology.
As Amazon continues to propel its drone delivery service to new horizons, it sets the stage for a transformative era of logistics and last-mile delivery.