Amazon.com Inc. is testing drones that it hopes will soon deliver packages to customers, company CEO Jeff Bezos says.
In an interview that aired Sunday on CBS's 60 Minutes, Bezos said the small, unmanned aircraft could deliver packages that weigh up to 2.3 kilograms to homes or about 86 per cent of the items the company currently delivers. The drones could fly within 16 kilometres of the company's distribution centres, covering a significant portion of the population in urban areas.
The aim would be half-hour delivery. The company hopes to deploy the drones within five years.
A video from the Seattle-based company showed a drone labelled "Amazon PrimeAir" taking a package from a distribution centre to a customer's front yard.
"In urban areas, you could actually cover very significant portions of the population," Bezos said. "It won't work for everything — we're not going to deliver kayaks or table saws this way. These are electric motors, so this is all electric. It's very green. It's better than driving trucks around."
The drones would be autonomous, flying to programmed GPS co-ordinates.
"The hard part here is putting in all the redundancy, all the reliability, all the systems you need to say — look, this thing can't land on somebody's head while they're walking around their neighbourhood."
Bezos said the drones couldn't be put in place until 2015 because it would take that long to work out regulations with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. He said he optimistically hopes the drones could be delivering packages in four or five years.
"It will work and it will happen and it's going to be a lot of fun," he said.
The FAA currently forbids the use of commercial drones. That is expected to change in 2015 when its Drones Act, which was passed last year, will require commercial jets and drones to share the same air space.
In Canada, commercial drones have been allowed since 2008, but current laws require commercial operators to file a Special Flight Operation Certificate with Transport Canada for every flight.
Drones have already been used to deliver packages and cakes in China and beer at a South African music festival, Domino's Pizza also released a video earlier this year suggesting that one of its U.K. franchises was experimenting with drones for pizza delivery.