When approaching the ground, the drone needs a small area around the delivery location that is clear of people, animals, or obstacles. It determines this using stereo vision in parallel with sophisticated AI algorithms trained to detect people and animals from above.
"A customer's yard may have clotheslines, telephone wires, or electrical wires," says Wilke. "Wire detection is one of the hardest challenges for low-altitude flights. Through the use of computer-vision techniques we've invented, our drones can recognize and avoid wires as they descend into, and ascend out of, a customer's yard."
The drone and Prime Air are one of the company's sustainability initiatives designed to help it achieve Shipment Zero - its vision to make all Amazon shipments net zero carbon, with 50% of all shipments net zero by 2030.
"When it comes to emissions and energy efficiency, an electric drone, charged using sustainable means, traveling to drop off a package is a vast improvement over a car on the road," says Wilke. "Today, most of us run to the store because we need an item now. With a service like Prime Air, we'll be able to order from home and stay home. This saves tremendously on fuel usage and reduces emissions."
The company has been testing out its Prime Air delivery drone service since 2016 in selected areas.
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