Retail giant Amazon.com Inc. has made its first drone delivery to an actual customer, dropping off a Fire TV device and a bag of popcorn to a house in the English countryside 13 minutes after receiving an online order. The delivery occurred Dec. 7 near Cambridge in a zone that U.K. aviation authorities have authorized for drone test flights, according to a tweet Wednesday by company Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos and a video documenting the flight. “First-ever #AmazonPrimeAir customer delivery is in the books,” Bezos said in the tweet. “13 min — click to delivery.”
Check out the video below:
The custom-built quad copter is seen in the video floating over green farm fields before nestling down onto a lawn and dropping off the package. The ruddy-cheeked customer, identified only as Richard B. of Cambridgeshire, then trots out into the yard to pick up the purchases after the drone took off.
“We’re starting with two customers now and in the coming months we’ll offer participation to dozens of customers living within several miles of our U.K. facility, and then growing to hundreds more,” the video narrator said. “After that, well it’d be easy to say the sky’s the limit, but that’s not exactly true anymore, is it?”
The drone landed with the help of a target placed on the ground to guide the craft’s sensors to a safe touchdown zone. After dropping the package, the drone lifted off and returned to the company’s facility. “We will use the data gathered during this beta test and the feedback provided by customers to expand the private trial to more customers over time,” the narrator said.
Drones could play a key role in helping Amazon manage costs while quickly delivering online orders. The company has expanded its Prime Now service, which delivers tens of thousands of products commonly found in convenience and drug stores in as little as an hour, to combine the ease of online shopping with the instant gratification of getting goods at a store.
Amazon’s proposed use of drones may drive down the cost to deliver small packages crosstown to as little as $1, a fraction of existing same-day delivery options, according to a 2015 study by New York-based ARK Invest that tried to quantify the savings from the use of drones compared with delivery trucks and couriers.
In the U.S., Amazon faces competition from startups like Flirtey, which in July made its own household delivery via drone from a 7-Eleven Inc. store in Reno, Nevada. Flirtey co-founder and CEO Matt Sweeny envisions customers paying a fee of about $10 for the convenience of quick drone delivery, and is experimenting with the convenience store chain on delivering over-the-counter medication, which could appeal to parents of sick children.