Amazon ‘secretly testing delivery drones’ in the UK countryside

Amazon is secretly testing delivery drones in the UK countryside, according to reports, as the company sticks with plans to dramatically slash delivery times.

Parcels could arrive in just thirty minutes if the plan to develop flying deliveries gets off the ground.

Despite advertising the ‘first drop’ in the UK in 2016 Amazon has kept its testing quiet.

However, The Mirror, obtained images of the testing this week in the Cambridgeshire countryside.

The testing is taking place despite the buzz around drones at the moment – after a sighting disabled Gatwick Airport for hours on December 19 and left 14,000 passengers stranded.

Another flying object over the runway at Heathrow Airport also temporarily halted flights.

The Amazon delivery drones could cut delivery times dramatically to thirty minutes 

The Amazon delivery drones could cut delivery times dramatically to thirty minutes 

The Amazon delivery drones could cut delivery times dramatically to thirty minutes 

Testing has reportedly taken place this week in the UK countryside despite airports being disabled by drones

Testing has reportedly taken place this week in the UK countryside despite airports being disabled by drones

Testing has reportedly taken place this week in the UK countryside despite airports being disabled by drones

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said he believed the drones could be working by 2018 when he was interviewed five years ago

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said he believed the drones could be working by 2018 when he was interviewed five years ago

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said he believed the drones could be working by 2018 when he was interviewed five years ago

Back in 2013, Jeff Bezos went on ’60 Minutes’ to share his vision of the future: Drones would be delivering Amazon packages in five years. It hasn’t happened

Police in Sussex have been heavily criticised after they failed to catch the menace who grounded flights in the week before Christmas. Experts have questioned why there were no drone defences over the runways.

The use of drones is highly controversial but in 2013 Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said the company would push ahead with plans – predicting the delivery bots could have been ready last year.

The company which already uses robots in its warehouses said: “One day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road.”

Miya Knights, co-author of a book on Amazon the company is likely to use them.

She said: “Amazon drones are potentially a very good way of cutting delivery costs.”

Drones have a short battery life, and privacy concerns can be a hindrance, too.

‘I don’t think you will see delivery of burritos or diapers in the suburbs,’ says drone analyst Colin Snow.

Drone usage has grown rapidly in some industries, but mostly outside the retail sector and direct interaction with consumers.

The government estimates that about 110,000 commercial drones are operating in U.S. airspace, and the number is expected to soar to about 450,000 in 2022.

They are being used in rural areas for mining and agriculture, for inspecting power lines and pipelines, and for surveying.

The Civil Aviation Authority said Amazon was yet to apply for approval of the technology.

HOW ARE DELIVERY COMPANIES TACKLING THE ‘LAST MILE’?

Delivery firms are pioneering a host of new technologies to tackle the last mile of deliveries.

It is hoped the vehicles can cut the inefficiencies, and hence costs, of the final stage of delivery, in which packages are taken from a central hub to your door.

Amazon envisions making last mile deliveries with an army of autonomous drones that drop packages on your doorstep.

Amazon has billed the service ‘Prime Air’ and claims the drones will increase the overall safety and efficiency of its transport system. 

Amazon envisions making last mile deliveries with an army of autonomous drones (pictured) that drop packages on your doorstep. It has billed the service 'Prime Air'

Amazon envisions making last mile deliveries with an army of autonomous drones (pictured) that drop packages on your doorstep. It has billed the service 'Prime Air'

Amazon envisions making last mile deliveries with an army of autonomous drones (pictured) that drop packages on your doorstep. It has billed the service ‘Prime Air’

Just one pilot could oversee several of the drones at once, meaning the firm could someday pay fewer people to make the same number of deliveries.

Another company, Starship Technologies, envisions its autonomous delivery service using land-based robots.

Each six-wheeled ‘ground drone’ is almost completely self-driving, and is constantly connected to the internet, using GPS to find its destination.

Walking on the pavement at about 4mph (3km/h), robots can complete local deliveries within five to 30 minutes from a local hub or retail outlet.

Self-driving cars are another last mile option being considered by some delivery companies.

Another company, Starship Technologies, envisions its autonomous delivery service using land-based robots (pictured)

Another company, Starship Technologies, envisions its autonomous delivery service using land-based robots (pictured)

Another company, Starship Technologies, envisions its autonomous delivery service using land-based robots (pictured)

Supermarket operator Kroger is testing a fleet of self-driving grocery cars that can carry as many as ten bags of shopping to your door.

Customers can order groceries via Kroger’s website or mobile app and select same-day or next-day delivery. 

Customers who take advantage of Kroger’s driverless grocery delivery system will still have to walk to the curb outside their house to retrieve the groceries. 

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