The UK Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA) recently launched Innovation Sandbox, a program that allows companies like Amazon to test their drone technology effectively and safely. This development has brought Amazon’s promise of drone deliveries a step closer to reality, with trials underway at UK sites.
Amazon in the UK
CNN reports that Amazon is now the most valuable company in the world, currently valued at nearly $810 billion, and led by CEO Jeff Bezos who holds the title of the wealthiest person on the planet. The multibillion-dollar company is known for its constant innovation and a continuous drive towards progress and improvement.
In the UK, Amazon’s dedication to innovation is seen in its partnerships and delivery methods, which are made available for both industries and customers. One of the more notable moves the delivery giant made was partnering with high street fashion store Next in order to give customers the option to pick up their parcels in the store’s shops across the country. Additionally, Amazon has also infiltrated the food delivery space by becoming the largest investor in London’s Deliveroo, Uber Eats’ biggest competitor.
On top of these partnerships and cutting-edge delivery systems, Amazon’s drone delivery service may soon come to life in the UK and in other countries as well. Although their drone program is driven is clouded in secrecy, some facts from the UK CAA have shed some light on how serious the delivery giant is about its drone delivery technology.
Innovation Sandbox and the Future of Drones
Various industries have experimented with drone technology over the past couple of years, and the results have been exciting to watch. Viral videos show drones in interesting situations, like the Yo Sushi London restaurant drone trays, which are a truly novel way to receive your food. Other applications accomplish tasks that humans can’t do, or just make existing jobs easier. Archaeologist drones and patrol officer drones are great examples of this, reaching hard to get to places in record times. Bezos saw this speed and efficiency could be applied to his delivery service, and potentially totally change how couriers work.
His vision would be invaluable to bustling cities or major roads plagued by high volumes of traffic, and could potentially save governments and industries a lot of money. Verizon Connect highlights how traffic jams on major UK roads cost the economy around £9 billion ($11.4 billion) a year in wasted time and fuel. If drone deliveries do come to fruition then they could help reduce traffic, and couriers won’t need to endure long traffic jams to deliver parcels.
Indeed, Bezos talked about the future plans for Amazon Prime Air way back in 2013, and the company has been testing across different UK sites since 2016. A groundbreaking announcement about the launch of the Innovation Sandbox from the UK CAA may be an indication that the delivery giant is finally close to a breakthrough — Amazon may be finding ways to deal with airspace regulations by working with leaders in the aviation space.
The CAA describes their Innovation Sandbox as a “virtual space in which new technology can be safely tested” that offers “innovative companies the chance to discuss, explore, trial and test emerging concepts.” The Amazon drone team is taking full advantage of this virtual technology because it enables them to try out their drones without bumping into any actual objects or causing accidents. Not to mention that they get to sit down with the other companies handpicked by the CAA. Crucial insights can be drawn from other partners like Altitude Angel, a company concerned with enabling the safe integration of highly automated drones into the airspace. Other participants in the program include Volocopter and Nesta Challenges, who are all working with the CAA Innovation Team to deliver travel products and services that are compliant with air traffic regulations.
The Innovation Team at the UK CAA emphasized how the program and its six participants are the start of what they hope to be a continuous collaboration with international industries, all of which will bring opportunities they say will benefit the UK in years to come.
Although the timeline remains unclear about when Amazon’s one-of-a-kind drone couriers will become operational, this partnership with the UK CAA is sure to speed things up. Before we know it, local delivery personnel will become local delivery drones, rapidly flying parcels door-to-door. With Amazon in the lead, these innovations will only signal the beginning of widespread airspace technology, an overdue solution to slow delivery times and traffic jams around the world.
Bernice Jarvis is a New York-based tech writer who is passionate about all things tech and economics. She spends her days monitoring the newest gadgets and features she thinks can shake up the market.
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