Amazon Aussie exec reveals drone plans

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The world's largest online retailer has pledged to deliver 500 million packages each year by drone from 2030.


The Australian executive in charge of Amazon's air division says it's one of the only ways to get parcels to customers "in under an hour".

The company revealed its bold delivery plan in Boston on Friday, also showing off its latest drone design - a model called the MK30 - that promises a bigger delivery area, quieter operation and the ability to fly in the rain. 

But Amazon will have competition in the air if it expands drone deliveries to Australia, with Google claiming an early advantage in the country and signing up a new partner this week. 

Amazon Prime Air vice-president David Carbon, an Australian ex-pat and former Boeing executive, told AAP many pundits had dismissed drone deliveries as "science fiction".

However the company was advanced in its plans to deploy a fleet of delivery drones and drop parcels weighing up to 2.2kg outside homes in crowded areas.

"We want to deliver packages in under an hour and we will deliver packages in under an hour to suburban areas," he said. 

"We want to scale. That's why I say we want to send 500 million packages by the end of the decade and (serve) millions of customers. That's what we're designing for and that's where we're going."

Amazon showed off a redesigned and fully electric MK30 at Friday's Delivering the Future event, with six propellers, a removable battery, a smaller and lighter body than its last model, and claims of safe delivery in "light rain". 

But the company will test firstly with its older MK27-2 model, with services set to roll out in rural California and Texas this year.

Mr Carbon said Amazon was working closely with aviation regulators to ensure safety in suburban areas but pending approval, planned a much wider rollout for its air deliveries in the US and potentially Australia.

"We're not restricting the design (to the US)," he said. 

"We'll focus on the launches here but it's designed for our global customer base and Australia is part of that.

"When I'm retired, I would like to know when I'm sitting in my chair, listening to the great Carlton Football Club winning their game and I need a bowl of something I could push a button and... see a drone. In fact, I would insist on it."

While retirement is years away for the executive, Mr Carbon said drone deliveries had the potential to change the way consumers shopped and transform traffic in built-up areas.

"Our analysis says it will take cars off the road," he said.

"How many times do you go to the store just to pick something up? And of things that you pick up urgently, 75 per cent of them are under five pounds (2.2kg)."

Amazon would face competition if it launched in Australia, however, as Google offshoot Wing has been operating drones in parts of the country since 2017.

It currently delivers for Coles, Boost Juice, Roll'd and Chemmart in Canberra and Logan, in southeast Queensland, and last week signed a partnership with DoorDash to offer deliveries from a third-party app.

The reporter travelled to Boston as a guest of Amazon. 

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