Report: Amazon Could Test Drone Delivery In India This Year

The Amazon Prime Air drone that will eventually be hailed as the forefather of our future robotic overlords.

Amazon is taking its drones to India, where the government is cool with robo-delivery for now.

Fine: if the Federal Aviation Administration won’t let Amazon prepare for the robot apocalypse by testing its delivery drones near the company’s Seattle headquarters, the company will take its new toys and play with them elsewhere. Namely, in India. The Times of India reports that the e-commerce giant plans to test the service near its current warehouses in Mumbai and Bangalore.

This would be the same drone service that Amazon proposed to test here in the United States: the unmanned aerial vehicles would be able to deliver packages weighing up to about 2.25 kilograms (5 pounds) within one and a half to three hours of a customer placing an order. A source who spoke to the Times said that deliveries could begin in just a few months: near the Diwali holiday in late October.

Real-world consumer testing of drone delivery is an option in India simply because the country doesn’t have rules prohibiting unmanned flights for commercial use. Aerial photography for profit doesn’t require special approval, and delivery by drone isn’t prohibited as it is here.

In the United States, hobbyists can fly small drones for fun, but in this country the FAA has delayed the deployment of delivery drones for now. They haven’t ruled the idea out indefinitely, but if you’re a company itching to deliver books or flowers as soon as possible, it will need to happen abroad.

Of course, not everyone in India thinks that this is a great idea. One expert who works for a drone company in India pointed out that there are roadblocks to real-world sky delivery in major cities like Mumbai and Bangalore. Well, sky-blocks. They’re called “buildings.” If the operator loses control of the drone, it could attract unwanted attention, or damage property. “Many companies in India have thought about [drone delivery]. But all are worried about the safety aspect,” he told the newspaper. Drone delivery may be legal in India, but is it practical in the real world? If these reports are true, Amazon will find out.

India to be launch pad for Amazon’s plan to deliver packages using drones; deliveries may start by Diwali [The Economic Times] (via Fortune)