In the future, delivery of everything from groceries to pizzas and baby diapers could be at least partially handled by drones.

And e-commerce company Amazon potentially took another step closer toward that reality earlier this week, when it announced the design of a new drone, called the MK27, that functions like a combination of an airplane and a helicopter.

Amazon is one of dozens of e-commerce and logistics companies hoping to transform delivery infrastructure with drones.

Here are details:

Amazon’s new drone

  • Amazon got approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on June 5, 2019 to fly its new drone, which reportedly can fly up to 15 miles in less than 30 minutes, and deliver packages up to five pounds. The FAA is the federal agency responsible for regulating civil aviation in the U.S.
  • The MK27, part of Amazon’s Prime Air drone program, has a hexagonal design, meant to protect customers and others from the rotary propellor blades.
  • The drone can lift off vertically like a helicopter, and then fly horizontally like a plane, according to reports.
  • Amazon claims its new drone will be able to make deliveries in the next few months.

Some other companies working on drone delivery

  • Alphabet, the parent company of Google, got approval in April from the FAA for its Wing delivery program, which will potentially deliver food to consumers.
  • Package delivery company UPS is using drones to make deliveries of medical supplies. Fedex has also reportedly conducted tests.
  • Walmart received a patent last year for drones that assist with in-store deliveries.
  • Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce company, has been making drone deliveries in Shanghai since 2018.

Regulation of commercial drones

While drones could be the future of package delivery, regulators have moved cautiously. The FAA has issued a long list of safety precautions and requirements that companies must adhere to first, which some critics have said could slow down the drone delivery industry indefinitely.

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