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Amazon begins drone deliveries in California and Texas

Enlarge / Amazon’s latest delivery drone design, the MK27-2, is now being used to make deliveries.

Amazon has begun delivering orders by drone. Amazon Prime Air is now operating in Lockeford, Calif. and College Station, Texas, delivering a small number of packages just in time for Christmas.

In August of this year, the retail giant received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to use drones for package deliveries. The maximum payload for Prime Air is 5 lb, and Amazon says that 85 percent of its shipments fall under that weight.

Residents of both towns can sign up for the service, and Amazon will then confirm that the company can deliver safely to the customer’s address. Once an order is placed, the customer gets an estimated delivery time and tracking info.

“The drone will fly to the designated delivery location, descend to the customer’s backyard, and hover at a safe height,” Amazon said. “It will then safely release the package and rise back up to altitude.”

Lockeford is a small, rural town of about 3,500 residents located about 50 miles southeast of Sacramento and just northwest of Stockton, making it an ideal location to pilot drone delivery. College Station is roughly 100 miles northwest of Houston and is the home of Texas A&M University.

“Our aim is to safely introduce our drones to the skies. We are starting in these communities and will gradually expand deliveries to more customers over time,” Natalie Banke, Amazon Air spokesperson told KTXL Fox 40 in Sacramento, which first reported the launch of Prime Air.

Amazon is using a hexagonal MK27-2 delivery drone with six propellors that are designed to minimize high-frequency sound waves. At the moment, the company is focused on safe transit above all else. While the drones fly autonomously, using algorithms to avoid obstacles like power lines and chimneys, Amazon is currently keeping tabs on deliveries with human eyes.

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