Amazon's first drone delivery: Fire TV, popcorn

A 2013 file photo from Amazon showing a mini-drone that would be used to fly small packages to customers.
A 2013 file photo from Amazon showing a mini-drone that would be used to fly small packages to customers.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • Retail giant Amazon has made its first drone delivery to a customer, dropping off its Fire TV streaming device and a bag of popcorn to a house in the English countryside 13 minutes after receiving the online order.

The delivery was made on Dec 7 near Cambridge in a zone that British aviation authorities have authorised for drone test flights, according to a tweet on Wednesday by Amazon's chief executive Jeff Bezos and a video documenting the flight.

"First-ever #AmazonPrimeAir customer delivery is in the books," Mr Bezos said in the tweet. "13 min - click to delivery."

In the video, the custom-built quadcopter is seen floating over farm fields before nestling down onto a lawn and dropping off the package. The customer, identified only as Mr Richard B. of Cambridgeshire, then picks up the purchases after the drone takes 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 UK 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 any more, is it?"

While the flight was conducted under British restrictions that, for now, prohibit such deliveries on a widespread basis, it marks a milestone in the race by companies such as Amazon and Alphabet Inc to use unmanned vehicles to transform how customers buy and receive goods.

The company is beginning broader delivery trials in an attempt to gather safety data to justify an expansion of the programme.

Amazon says it is testing its service in the UK because regulations in the US are too strict. It announced the delivery five hours before Mr Bezos and other technology industry leaders were scheduled to meet US President-elect Donald Trump, who has vowed to cut regulations across the board.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2016, with the headline 'Amazon's first drone delivery: Fire TV, popcorn'. Print Edition | Subscribe