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Amazon testing drones to deliver packages


Published:   |   Updated: December 2, 2013 at 09:30 AM

Amazon.com plans to use drone aircraft to delivery some packages with five years, the company's CEO said during an interview broadcast Sunday on “60 Minutes.”

Jeff Bezos said the drones would carry packages up to 5 pounds within a 10-mile radius of an Amazon distribution center. Bezos said 86 percent of the company's packages weigh 5 pounds or less.

The craft, known as “octocopters,” are still being tested and will need approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, Bezos said.

“I don't want anyone to think this is just around the corner,” he told the CBS news magazine. “This is years of additional work at this point.”

The goal of the plan, known as Amazon Prime Air, would be delivery from a company warehouse within 30 minutes.

The company has 96 warehouses — known as “fulfillment centers” — and is planning to build several more, including one in Ruskin and another in Lakeland. Each local center would hire about 1,000 employees full time and another 1,000 seasonal workers, the company announced in October.

“In urban areas you could actually cover very significant portions of the populations,” Bezos said of drone delivery. “It won't work for everything. We're not going to deliver kayaks or table saws this way.

“These are electric motors so this is all electric, it's very green, it's better than driving trucks around.”

The aircraft would not be monitored by someone on the ground, however.

“These are autonomous,” Bezos said. “You give them instructions of which GPS coordinates to go to, and they take off and they fly to those GPS coordinates.”

He promised the delivery drones “will work, and it will happen, and it's going to be a lot of fun.”

Seattle-based Amazon has been working on ways to expedite delivery as it competes against other retail websites as well as brick-and-mortar stores.

Last month, the company announced it would begin Sunday delivery in a partnership with the U.S. Postal Service. Amazon also promotes its $79-a-year Prime program, a premium plan that promises fast delivery.

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