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Amazon shows off new delivery drone that flies like a helicopter and a plane

How big is Amazon’s carbon footprint?
How big is Amazon’s carbon footprint? 01:27
  • Amazon's new electric delivery drone is designed to ferry light packages to customers' homes in less than 30 minutes.
  • The ecommerce company says the unmanned aircraft uses AI and other advanced tech to safely fly and avoid obstacles.
  • The FAA has certified both Amazon and a service being developed by Google-parent Alphabet to introduce commercial drone deliveries in 2019.
  • Amazon also touts "Prime Air" as good for the air itself. Its drones are electric, which the company said will help reduce the carbon emissions that come with delivering packages by truck or car.

What can hover like a helicopter, fly like a plane and deliver household goods practically right to your door in under an hour? No, it's not Superman side-hustling for a few extra bucks — try Amazon's latest AI-powered drone, which the ecommerce company unveiled on Wednesday at its conference in Las Vegas.

As YouTube footage of the machine shows below, the Amazon unmanned aircraft does vertical takeoffs and landings, like a chopper, before shifting into airplane mode. The drone uses sensors, stereo optics and other software to avoid crashing into chimneys, power lines or other urban obstacles. It can also detect moving objects in the air, Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, said on the company's blog, which will come as a relief to paragliders.

"A customer's yard may have clotheslines, telephone wires or electrical wires. Wire detection is one of the hardest challenges for low-altitude flights," he wrote. "Through the use of computer-vision techniques we've invented, our drones can recognize and avoid wires as they descend into, and ascend out of, a customer's yard."

Amazon Prime Air’s New Delivery Drone by amazon on YouTube

The demonstration is part of an Amazon project, dubbed Prime Air, that aims to enable drone delivery of small packages in less than 30 minutes. Wilke said the company expects the service to be up and flying "within months."

While that timeline sounds ambitious, the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday certified Prime Air to operate drones for deliveries, according to Yahoo! Finance. The agency in April gave Google's drone service the green light to start making commercial deliveries this year.

Amazon also touts Prime Air as good for the air itself. Its drones are electric, which the company said will help reduce the global-warming carbon emissions that come with delivering packages by truck or car, as well as cut back on short consumer trips to the store.

FAA approves first drone delivery service 01:50

"With a service like Prime Air, we'll be able to order from home and stay home. This saves tremendously on fuel usage and reduces emissions," Wilke said.

Amazon, which has been criticized for not doing more to fight climate change, earlier this year announced plans to make half of all its shipments carbon-neutral by 2030. Along with using drones, it plans to reach that goal by using more solar power and shifting to electric delivery vehicles, among other measures.

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