Amazon’s Prime Air drone shown

Amazon’s new Prime Air drone can fly like a plane or a helicopter depending on need. The drone was shown off at a conference in Las Vegas.

The Prima Air drone can switch between the two modes for takeoff, landing and flight.

The propellors are shrouded for safety, and the shrouds are wings.

The design brief was for a range of up to 15 miles and and deliver packages under 2.5kg to customers in less than 30 minutes.

On Amazon’s blog the company says: “We know customers will only feel comfortable receiving drone deliveries if they know the system is incredibly safe. So we’re building a drone that isn’t just safe, but independently safe, using the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.”

The drone uses diverse sensors and advanced algorithms, such as multi-view stereo vision, to detect static objects like a chimney. To detect moving objects, like a paraglider or helicopter, the drone uses proprietary computer-vision and machine learning algorithms.

“A customer’s yard may have clotheslines, telephone wires, or electrical wires. Wire detection is one of the hardest challenges for low-altitude flights. Through the use of computer-vision techniques we’ve invented, our drones can recognise and avoid wires as they descend into, and ascend out of, a customer’s yard.”

The company also talked about the drone’s potential environmental impact: “Prime Air is one of many sustainability initiatives to help achieve Shipment Zero, the company’s vision to make all Amazon shipments net zero carbon, with 50% of all shipments net zero by 2030. When it comes to emissions and energy efficiency, an electric drone, charged using sustainable means, traveling to drop off a package is a vast improvement over a car on the road. Today, most of us run to the store because we need an item now. With a service like Prime Air, we’ll be able to order from home and stay home. This saves tremendously on fuel usage and reduces emissions.”

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