Amazon shows off new delivery drone

The new drone lands and takes off like a helicopter but flies like a plane

Amazon.com has teased a new drone design that takes off and lands vertically like a helicopter but flies like an airplane.

The video of the delivery drone is being released nearly two years after Amazon released a video to announce that it intended to use drones to deliver parcels through a new service called Prime Air.

But the drone showcased in the video posted on Sunday is quite different from the one it showed off previously. The new drone, for example, carries the parcel in its fuselage rather than below the drone.

The new hybrid drone rises vertically to nearly 400 feet and then takes a horizontal orientation to become a streamlined and fast airplane, according to the Amazon video. The device lands vertically, drops the package at the destination, and then again rises up vertically. The user in the video is alerted on a tablet about the delivery.

The previous drone design will also probably continue. In time, there will be a whole variety of designs, with different designs for different environments, said the narrator, automotive journalist Jeremy Clarkson.

The new drone can fly up to 15 miles (24 kilometers) and is able to “sense and avoid” obstacles both on air and on land. Amazon said in its FAQ that it has more than a dozen prototypes that it has developed in its research and development labs. The online retailer has Prime Air development centers in the U.S., the U.K. and Israel, and is testing the vehicles in multiple international locations.

The commercial rollout of the retailer's program in the U.S. is likely to depend on when the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration finalizes rules for the commercial use of drones.

FAA proposed rules earlier this year that could allow programs like those of Amazon.com for the commercial delivery of packages by drones to take off. The drones would still have to operate under restrictions such as a maximum weight of 55 pounds, and follow rules that limit flights to daylight and visual line-of-sight operations.

"We will deploy when and where we have the regulatory support needed to safely realize our vision," Amazon said in the FAQ. "We’re excited about this technology and one day using it to deliver packages to customers around the world in 30 minutes or less." The company had said two years ago that it expected the rules by 2015.

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John Ribeiro

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