AMAZON developing MEGADRONES that fly in convoy
Sunday, 08 January 2017

Amazon is developing technology that will allow a flock of drones to fly in convoy, allowing the machines to cover longer distances and carry heavier loads.

The company has been granted the patent for a a large and robust flying drone, which is  made up of several smaller drones.

The Amazon Technologies Inc. patent says that individual modules could detach from the collective drone body once they were no longer required, allowing them to operate independently to deliver smaller parcels.

The patent description explains that a collective aerial drone would be capable of transporting 'virtually any size, weight, or quantity of items.'

The average drone can typically fly continuously for up to 30 minutes and can only transport items weighing up to 10 pounds.

Last month the company revealed that it had made its first aircraft delivery and claimed to have dropped off the package just 13 minutes after it was ordered.

However, investigations later showed that the parcel, containing an Amazon Fire TV box and a bag of popcorn, were flown from Amazon's drone testing site near Cambridge, across one field to a farmhouse just 765 yards away.

Amazon has spent millions of pounds developing its drone service. In July the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) lifted strict drone flying restrictions to enable the company to start testing its drones.

It means Amazon is allowed to have one pilot controlling multiple autonomous drones and can operate a drone without a direct line of sight.

Over the summer Amazon secretly flew its drones in a field, around five miles east of its research and development centre in Cambridge.

It built a wall of haybales to hide the testing area, but the drone could be spotted when it was flying in the sky.

The secret site also contains a blue control tower, with a five-metre tall antenna, and a manicured landing site, the size of a football pitch to resemble a front garden.

The area is constantly patrolled by security men and vans, with Amazon keen to keep its latest development to itself.

Amazon has also applied for a patent for anti-collision avoidance systems on their drones.

The company has stated the drones will cruise below 400ft, carrying packages up to 5lbs and guided by GPS.

Amazon does not require a licence for the drones but once it rolls out the service further it will need to obtain the permission of the Civil Aviation Authority for every delivery as all commercial drone flights must be approved by the body.

Questions over the safe use of drones remain, however, with a number of near-misses involving commercial aircraft and amateur drone pilots reported this year.

Amazon has proposed using its crafts in 'segregated blocks of airspace below 500 feet and away from most manned aviation operations'.

The firm also said its drones will use 'sense and avoid' technology and data will be continuously gathered throughout the trial to make improvements, calling safety its 'top priority'.


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