Lighter, News

Amazon Testing “Octocopters” For Half-Hour Delivery Times (But Not Anytime Soon)

The Amazon Prime Air Drone. Image: Chris Demorro
The Amazon Prime Air Drone. Image: Chris Demorro

Lots of people buy books and products from Amazon, an online seller.

They order and pay over the Internet and the books are shipped through the mail or a delivery service like FedEx.

One day, people could get their Amazon deliveries from an “unmanned aerial vehicle” — a tiny flying vehicle that looks like a toy helicopter.

And instead of waiting days to get the parcel, it could be at the buyer’s home in half an hour or less.

The company is working on a fleet of tiny vehicles they call “Prime Air.” The vehicles are also known as “octocopters.”

On their website, Amazon says, “one day, Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today.”

The U.S.’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is working on safety regulations for unmanned flying vehicles like the Prime Air copters.

Those regulations will make sure the copters are able to fly safely where they need to go.

Once the FAA has put its rules in place, which could be as early as 2015, Amazon will be ready with its fleet of tiny flyers. The process could take as many as five years.

The new delivery service would likely be available only in the United States, at first.

The copters the company is testing now can handle packages up to five pounds (2.3 kg) and they have a range of 10 miles (16 kilometres).

Other companies are also looking at using unmanned flying vehicles to deliver their products. For instance, Domino’s Pizza in the UK released a video showing a “DomiCopter,” delivering a pizza. That video may have been a publicity stunt. In any case, just like Prime Air’s octocopters, the DomiCopters don’t have clearance to take off just yet.

UPDATE: In December 2016, Amazon made its first drone delivery–in the United Kingdom (UK). It took just 13 minutes from order to delivery, according to this CNN article.

This Amazon video shows what the process of ordering-to-delivery would look like with Prime Air.

Related links

Amazon Prime Air website.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos was interviewed by U.S. news program 60 Minutes about Amazon Prime Air. (Note: This is an interesting piece, which shows how Amazon products are ordered and delivered today. However, 60 Minutes is not necessarily a kid-friendly news website; also, the video on their site (14:08) includes commercials, ie, for toothpaste.)

By Jonathan Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Amazon suggests that, in the future, seeing small helicopters making deliveries will common. How might you imagine this vehicle being used in your city or neighbourhood? What different types of jobs might benefit from the use of tiny flying helicopters, such as the octocopter?

Reading Prompt: Extending Understanding
Imagine a disagreement between two people. One person believes that the octocoptors are a good thing, while the other does dislikes them. What reasons might each person have? Who do you agree with? What beliefs and opinions would you share to convince the other?

Express personal opinions about ideas presented in texts (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Extend understanding of texts by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Extend understanding of texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts, by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Grammar Feature: Number Prefixes
English has its origins in many different languages, including Latin, Greek, Germanic, etc. In many English words, the original root word can still be seen. For example, many of the number prefixes still show their Latin and Greek origin. (A number prefix is a group of letters that, when added before the start of a word, communicate a specific value.) These prefixes are: uni (1), di (2), tri (3), quadri (4), penta (5), hexa (6), septi (7), octo (8), novem (9), and dec (10).

How many words can you make using the number prefixes above? Compare your list to a classmates. Award one point for every word that is not duplicated (on both lists).