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Amazon Drone Deliveries to Take Flight in California Community

The unincorporated community of Lockeford, Calif., is slated to be Amazon’s first attempt at making Prime Air a reality. The company will be working to get the program operational later this summer, officials say.

The Amazon buy now button on a computer screen.
Shutterstock/Rokas Tenys
Could drone deliveries soon be available in your community? Maybe. A pilot program in Lockeford, Calif., an unincorporated community in San Joaquin County, will be Amazon’s first attempt at making Prime Air a reality.

“Lockeford residents will soon have access to one of the world's leading delivery innovations,” State Assemblyman Heath Flora said in a release. “It’s exciting that Amazon will be listening to the feedback of the San Joaquin County community to inform the future development of this technology.”

To get the project off the ground, Amazon plans to work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and local officials in Lockeford for the approvals needed to carry out these deliveries.

The drones would use an “industry-leading sense-and-avoid system” that will enable operations without visual observers, allowing them to operate at greater distances while safely and reliably avoiding other aircraft, people, pets and obstacles, according to a statement from Amazon.

Furthermore, the technology would use the detection system for two scenarios: to be safe when in transit and when approaching the ground.

For example, the statement said, “as our drone descends to deliver the package into a customer’s backyard, the drone ensures that there’s a small area around the delivery location that’s clear of any people, animals or other obstacles.”

The drones would also be able to identify static and moving obstacles while in transit, thanks to different algorithms that focus on detecting objects.

At the moment, Prime Air is one of three drone-delivery companies that obtained an FAA air carrier certificate, which will be required to operate drones using these advanced capabilities.

As for what comes next, customers starting in Lockeford will soon be able to add Prime Air-eligible items to their carts and checkout, as they usually would, receiving an estimated arrival time with a status tracker for their order.

Once the drone arrives at its delivery location, it would descend to the customer’s backyard and release the package.

The pilot program is slated to begin later this year.