Categories: InnovationScience

Amazon Begins Drone Delivery Testing In Cambridge

Amazon has begun testing its unmanned delivery drone service in Cambridge, TechWeekEurope has learned.

The city of Cambridge, UK is home to Amazon’s R&D operations, where a research lab is at the forefront of testing the company’s Prime Air delivery drone service.

This week, a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) was established just south east of Cambridge, alerting air traffic that unmanned aerial vehicle flights will be taking place until October 5.

Worsted Lodge

The site is just east of a village called Worsted Lodge, close to Sawston, in Cambridgeshire. TechWeekEurope spoke to one of the people associated with the NOTAM, but was told that more information regarding the flights cannot be disclosed.

“We can only disclose operational constraints,” he said, with an American accent. “You can try and give the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) a call but I’m sure they can only disclose the same.”

The NOTAM, which informs pilots of aerial obstructions and other hazards, details how the UAVs (presumably Amazon’s delivery drones) will fly up to 750 feet and within a radius of two nautical miles.

“Unmanned flight will take place,” reads the NOTAM. “UAS OPR Extended Visual Line of Sight WI 2NM.”

The NOTAM is in place from sunrise to sunset every day until October 5.

Amazon is currently hiring at the Cambridge facility, looking for drone specialists and engineers for the project. Yesterday, Amazon announced that it also plans to create 1,000 permanent jobs across the UK, located in London, Cambridge, Manchester and Edinburgh.

Amazon acquired Cambridge-based startup Evi Technologies in 2012 to take advantage of the scientific talent pool at the company, and announced it would begin testing drones in 2014.

© Google Maps

Taking a “hybrid approach”, Amazon’s delivery drones are a cross between a more conventional style drone and a plane. The unmanned vehicles will reach speeds of over 50mph, with a range of 15 miles. Amazon said it wants its drones to be able to make deliveries in less than 30 minutes.

But safety fears have been raised by residents in Cambridgeshire regarding the UAV flights. Terry Holloway, the managing director of Cambridge Aero Club, told Cambridge News that the plans don’t make any sense.

“From a legislative point of view the Civil Aviation Authority rules as they currently exist means it’s just totally unfeasible to even consider doing this,” he said.

TechWeekEurope has contacted Amazon for more information.

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Ben Sullivan

Ben covers web and technology giants such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft and their impact on the cloud computing industry, whilst also writing about data centre players and their increasing importance in Europe. He also covers future technologies such as drones, aerospace, science, and the effect of technology on the environment.

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