You Can Finally Get Amazon Packages Delivered By Drone, But There's A Catch

If you've been waiting patiently to be able to get your Amazon deliveries dropped off via drone (the flying autonomous kind), you may not have to wait much longer ... kind of. For years Amazon has been trying to find a way to use automated delivery drones to quickly (and safely) deliver packages to customers within an hour. How would the drones carry their cargo? How would they know where to drop packages off? How could they effectively operate over long distances when most commercial drones are short-range machines that need to be controlled remotely?

After some steady but rocky progress — with no shortage of both milestones and setbacks — Amazon is talking with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to get the necessary permissions to begin its Prime Air drone program. If all goes according to plan, Amazon expects it could get off the ground as early as later this year, though you won't be seeing Amazon-branded drones peppering the skies just yet.

It's all about location

Putting aside the fact that Amazon is still hammering things out with the FAA, this is more of a trial run in order to see how the system performs in a more public environment. In light of that, automated aerial deliveries will likely be happening but in a limited capacity and within a limited location.

About 100 miles to the east of San Francisco sits the small community of Lockeford, California, which is Amazon's choice for its Prime Air testing site. According to Amazon, Lockeford residents will be able to sign up for the program, purchase Prime Air-eligible items, then receive the expected order status tracking and ETA for delivery. After that, a drone will be dispatched to a designated location, descend into the customer's backyard, drop the package from what Amazon says is a safe height, then be on its way.

The feedback Amazon receives from Lockeford participants will be used to further refine the program and its drone technology — something that will also hopefully include additional consideration for packaging, because Amazon's typical packing approach may not work out so well if the boxes are being dropped straight on the ground from any significant height. Amazon hasn't given any specific dates for when it thinks Prime Air may expand its testing area or become more widely available, but it does expect the program to grow over the next several months and years.