Amazon has a new version of its Prime Air delivery drone, and it just unveiled it at the company’s re:MARS 2019 conference. The new model is described as featuring a ‘hybrid design’ with improved stability and efficiency, as well as better safety than the previous version. This model is capable of vertical takeoffs and landings like a helicopter, can fly like an airplane, and may one day bring packages directly to customers.
Whereas standard drones can be controlled with four degrees of freedom, Amazon says its new Prime Air model can be controlled with six degrees of freedom. The additional control options enable the drone to better handle ‘gusty wind’ conditions, at least in terms of stability and safety.
Keeping people on the ground safe was a big focus for the new model, with Amazon describing the Prime Air drone as ‘fully shrouded for safety.’ Thanks in part to artificial intelligence, Amazon describes its new drone as ‘independently safe,’ which means the drone’s various onboard sensors and systems can detect objects and refuse to proceed with any command that could result in the vehicle colliding with those objects.
This is important due to the real-life circumstances these drones may find themselves in — one set to land in a customer’s backyard, for example, may have to suddenly change the plan if it detects a close line as it descends. As well, any number of potential objects could get in its way, such as an unexpected bird or balloon in the flight path.
The drone is electric and will be charged using ‘sustainable means,’ according to Amazon, which highlights the product as a key part of its Shipment Zero goal. Electric drones may provide a more environmentally friendly alternative to road-based deliveries, which typically feature gas or diesel vehicles.