In Brief

Amazon moves a step closer to delivery drone future

Internet retail giant teams up with Civil Aviation Authority to trial delivery method in UK

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Retail giant Amazon could soon be delivering parcels via drone after being given government approval to test out the method in the UK.

The company has teamed up with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to explore how to make delivery-by-drone a reality.

The CAA has granted a series of concessions in certain controlled spaces to allow Amazon to overcome present regulations about drone flying.

First of these is the operation of the craft beyond the line of sight. Current UK rules say pilots must be able to clearly see the drone at all times. Amazon's Prime Air service needs to demonstrate it is safe to fly outside these limits.

Next is the need to automatically steer the drone away from objects it may hit. The tests will trial sensor-based autonomy "sense and avoid" technologies to manoeuvre the craft away from possible hazard.

Finally, unlike other drone flights, the trial will also see one pilot controlling a fleet of highly-autonomous craft. At present, one person must be in charge of one flight.

Amazon regards the UK as "world leader in enabling drone innovation", reports the Daily Telegraph. The tests are the most extensive trials of the company's drones anywhere in the world yet.

There is no firm date for when Prime Air will launch, although Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, in 2013, suggested it could become available within four to five years.

The BBC adds that ministers backing the tests want to pave the way for all businesses to use the technology in the future. However, convincing the public that the craft won't invade privacy is still a sticky issue.

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