Amazon says it will begin delivering parcels to shoppers by drone for the first time later this year, pending final regulatory approval.
Users in the Californian town of Lockeford will be able to sign up to have thousands of goods delivered by air to their homes, it said.
The shopping giant has promised drone delivery for years but has faced delays and reported setbacks.
But it said it planned to roll out the service more widely after Lockeford.
“The promise of drone delivery has often felt like science fiction,” it said in a blog post. “[But] later this year, Amazon customers living in Lockeford, California, will become among the first to receive Prime Air deliveries.
“Their feedback about Prime Air will help us create a service that will safely scale to meet the needs of customers everywhere.”
Amazon said the drones will be programmed to drop parcels in the backyards of customers in Lockeford, which has a population of about 4,000 people.
They will be able to fly “beyond-line-of-sight”, meaning they don’t have to be controlled by a visual observer and instead use sensors to avoid other aircraft, people, pets and obstacles.
The aim is to get packages to customers safely in less than an hour, the retailer said.
In the past, Amazon has been accused of using the promise of drone delivery as a headline-grabber to push its publicity around its Prime membership service.
In 2013, former boss and founder Jeff Bezos pledged to fill the skies with a fleet of delivery drones within five years. And in 2019, Amazon said it would be delivering by drone to customers “within months”.
In April, a report by news site Bloomberg alleged safety concerns over its drones – although the retailer said it “rigorously” tested its flights in compliance with “all applicable regulations”.
In December 2016, the company ran an apparently successful trial in Cambridge, UK. A package was delivered, by drone, in 13 minutes.
Since then it has trialled drone delivery partnerships with the US retailer Walmart and the courier firms FedEx and UPS.
Explaining how Prime Air deliveries would work, Amazon said: “Once onboarded, customers in Lockeford will see Prime Air-eligible items on Amazon. They will place an order as they normally would and receive an estimated arrival time with a status tracker for their order.
“For these deliveries, the drone will fly to the designated delivery location, descend to the customer’s backyard, and hover at a safe height. It will then safely release the package and rise back up to altitude.”(BBC)
•PHOTO: Amazon’s latest delivery drone, the MK27-2