Before the end of the decade, the skies over communities close to major U.S. cities could be filled with robotic drones carrying packages from (AMZN).
The Internet retail giant’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezo unveiled the program — dubbed Prime Air — on Sunday night’s airing of the CBS (CBS) TV newsmagazine 60 Minutes. Amazon Prime would feature eight-engine helicopter drones, called octocopters, which would be tasked with delivering small packages to customer residences. According to Bezos, the system is still in development, but could become reality within four years or more, USA TODAY notes.
Of course, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would have to give clearance for the drones to fly through residential airspace. Though best known to Americans for their role in overseas battlefields, there has recently been a push to find non-military uses for drone aircraft and the FAA is currently working on new rules to govern their use.
Drones would allow Amazon to accelerate package deliveries, allowing it to compete with traditional brick and mortar businesses. Bezos noted that drones would transport products from AMZN fulfillment centers to homes within 30 minutes. However, drone deliveries would be limited to relatively small, light items and would likely only be practical in major metropolitan areas, where consumers are located relatively close to distribution centers.
Shares of Amazon climbed more than 1% in Monday morning trading.