The First-Ever Amazon Drone Deliveries Have Begun

The delivery, touted by Jeff Bezos, took place in the UK.

Dec 14 2016, 5:17pm

A little over three years ago, on a 60 Minutes TV show segment, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that drones would very soon deliver packages up to five pounds right to a customer's doorstep in a half an hour, tops. He showed Charlie Rose the octocopters they planned to use emblazoned with the yellow and black Amazon logo on the side and it all seemed very impressive. Yet, three years on, after design changes to the drones and regulatory struggles with the US Federal Aviation Administration , the company's drone scheme started to seem a little more like a child's wishful thinking.

Not any more. Today, Jeff Bezos announced that an Amazon drone has completed its first ever package delivery to a customer. The delivery, which took place on December 7, is part of a continuing private customer trial the company is running in the Cambridge region of England. The whole delivery took about 13 minutes—from the moment the customer made the purchase to the time the drone came hovering down in their front lawn with the package. Amazon released a video of the delivery today, and Jeff Bezos proudly tweeted about it as well.

The beta trial is starting with just two customers now, and will increase to dozens and hundreds in the coming months, according to the Amazon video

The delivery process goes like this: Amazon has thousands of little "fulfillment centers" as they're called, that serve a geographical region. These centers carry a range of products, and if a customer orders something that is available in the center, they'll be eligible for Amazon Prime Air, as the drone program is called. After an order is made, the package trundles down a conveyor belt to a waiting drone. The drone picks it up, choo-choos down a track to a lift off pad, and takes off.

The drones fly under 400 feet so they're not a danger to aircraft, are capable of traveling 10 miles from the center to a home using GPS to navigate, and can carry a package under five pounds—which Bezos says is the weight of 86 percent of Amazon's deliveries.

It may take some time yet for Amazon Prime Air to navigate the web of FAA regulations in the United States—which is why this trial is taking place in the UK—but after this successful delivery it only seems like a matter of time. On the drone program's website they insist that "One day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road." Maybe it will.