Amazon says its free drone delivery service will launch in the sleepy California town of Lockeford, answering a long-standing question about where the Prime Air service would first be rolled out.
The company’s long-promised deliveries via drones, which it previously announced would begin “within months” in 2019, are yet to progress beyond trials despite years of expensive investment.
Amazon’s first ever drone delivery took place in Cambridge in the UK back in December 2016, in a test-run for which the company had special permission, but an ongoing Prime Air delivery service has yet to begin.
The drones themselves can fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds (2.2kg) in less than 30 minutes – but only during the day and in clear weather.
The company has gone through more than two dozen prototype designs for its Prime Air drones, before settling on a hexagonal model with specially-designed quiet propellers.
Lockeford has a population of just over 3,500 people and is about 40 miles south of California state capital Sacramento.
Announcing the trial, Amazon said the community has historic links to the aviation industry, with flight pioneer Weldon Cooke as a former resident.
“We are working with the Federal Aviation Administration and local officials in Lockeford to obtain permission to conduct these deliveries and will continue with that collaboration into the future,” the company said.
Customers who can take part in the trial will see items on Amazon listed as eligible for Prime Air.
Drone will fly to destination, hover, then drop
“They will place an order as they normally would and receive an estimated arrival time with a status tracker for their order,” the company said.
“For these deliveries, the drone will fly to the designated delivery location, descend to the customer’s backyard, and hover at a safe height. It will then safely release the package and rise back up to altitude,” added Amazon.