Amazon unveils new delivery Prime Air drone - and it can fly in rain

MK30 has custom-designed propellers that will reduce the its perceived noise by another 25 percent.
Deena Theresa
Testing the MK30 in a tunnel.
Testing the MK30 in a tunnel.


Amazon unveiled its next-generation delivery drone MK30 on Thursday and it promises increased range, expanded temperature tolerance, and the capability to fly in light rain. MK30 is due to come into service in 2024, the company wrote in a blog post.

The company kickstarted its drone delivery idea with the 2013 announcement of Prime Air. Back then, drones delivering packages up to five pounds to houses in less than half an hour seemed too good to be true. Amazon's promises were no science fiction though. The company's current fleet of delivery drones flies 400 feet above the ground at speeds up to 50 mph carrying packages up to five pounds within a range of nine miles.

Earlier this year, Amazon announced that customers residing in Lockeford, California, and College Station, Texas, will be prioritized to receive Prime Air deliveries later this year.

MK30 will be lighter and smaller than its predecessor, MK27-2, which will make deliveries in Lockeford and College Station.

Amazon unveils new delivery Prime Air drone - and it can fly in rain
A 3D rendered version of the MK30 drone.


Custom-designed propellers to eliminate noise

Previously, along with safety and privacy concerns, residents had raised concerns about the noise generated by drones. Keeping this in mind, Amazon said that their team has been working on reducing the noise signature of their drones. And now, Prime Air's Flight Science team has created new custom-designed propellers that will reduce the MK30’s perceived noise by another 25 percent, according to the release.

Amazon has said that they've created a "sophisticated and industry-leading sense-and-avoid system that will allow our drones to operate at greater distances while safely and reliably avoiding other aircraft, people, pets, and obstacles". However, it is impossible to avoid all risks from flying and so they have taken a "proven" aerospace approach to designing safety into their drones.

And as always, "our newest drone will go through rigorous evaluation by national aerospace authorities like the Federal Aviation Administration to prove its safety and reliability," the release said.

Amazon unveils new delivery Prime Air drone - and it can fly in rain
An Amazon delivery drone.


Sophisticated drone technology systems and a new robotic system

That's not it.

Amazon on Thursday also introduced Sparrow, the newest robotic system in their warehouses that can "detect, select, and handle individual products in our inventory.

Last year, Amazon workers around the world picked, stowed, or packed around five billion packages, or more than 13 million packages in a day. Now, Sparrow can recognize and handle millions of items, all thanks to computer vision and artificial intelligence.

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According to The Verge, all this comes at a time when Amazon's devices unit is facing billions of dollars in operating losses. The company might slow down the development of new features for its Alexa AI assistant, in a move to cut costs. Amazon is currently working on optimizing costs.

Meanwhile, the company is excited about its drone technology systems. "To sustainably deliver a vast selection of items in under an hour, and eventually within 30 minutes, at scale, drones are the most effective path to success," they said. "We are excited about the next chapter in the Prime Air program and expanding this service to more customers in the months and years to come."

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