Amazon grounds Prime Air drone deliveries in California, shi…

Amazon.com Inc. has revealed that it’s winding down its drone delivery services in Lockeford, California, but that doesn’t mean it’s giving up on the idea just yet, as it will soon launch a new Prime Air location in Tolleson, Arizona, and continue to operate deliveries in other locations.

Amazon Prime Air is an experimental service that enables customers to order products weighing a maximum of five pounds and get them delivered within just 30 minutes via one of its experimental drones.

The company launched the service in Lockeford back in December 2022, saying it was an “early testing zone” and that it planned to add additional locations in future. It later launched a second zone in College Station, Texas, and it plans to continue providing drone deliveries in that location.

The new Prime Air location in Tolleson will provide same day deliveries to residents in the West Valley Phoenix metropolitan area, the company said. It also revealed it will launch additional drone deliveries in Arizona later this year, and also in other locations in 2025.

Amazon was one of the first companies in the world to explore the possibilities of drone delivery services, announcing its plans way back in 2013. At the time, its founder and then-Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said the concept was about four-to-five years away from launching.

It spent years developing its drones, carrying out tests as far afield as the U.K. before ultimately settling on a U.S. launch after being granted approval from the U.S Federal Aviation Administration in August 2020.

Amazon didn’t offer any explanation to why it’s closing down Prime Air in the Lockeford location, but it said employees there will be offered alternative positions at other Prime Air sites. It may well be that the decision to shut down Prime Air in Lockeford has to do with low demand. While Amazon had previously aimed to make 10,000 drone deliveries by the end of 2023, it reported that it had only managed to deliver around 100 by the middle of that year.

Rival drone delivery firm Zipline International Inc. has made better progress, reaching the one million delivery milestone earlier this month.

Amazon’s plans have been hampered by delays in the rollout of its newest delivery drone, called the MK30 (pictured), which was unveiled in November 2022 but is still “undergoing testing”, the company said. The MK30 is lighter than its existing delivery drones and capable of flying in light rain. It was expected to launch operationally sometime this year, but that date appears less likely now.

Amazon reportedly opted to develop its own drone after testing various third-party models and finding they were too unreliable.

Photo: Amazon.com

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