Online retail giant Amazon wants to deliver packages to your door via a new helicopter drone delivery service the company is calling Prime Air. The service, first announced on 60 Minutes last night, is a product of Amazon's R&D department and is years away from becoming a commercial reality, CEO Jeff Bezos said.
The goal of the new delivery service is to have packages delivered to shoppers in 30 minutes or less. The 8-propeller "octocopter" drones Amazon plans to use for the service are about the size of a remote-controlled airplane and are capable of carrying shoebox-sized packages of up to 5lbs. This covers 86 percent of the items Amazon delivers, Bezos said.
The drones are completely unmanned and will rely on GPS to deliver their packages. Early prototypes are capable of flying 10 miles from an Amazon fulfillment center, which would cover a "very significant portion of the population" in urban areas, Bezos said. Prime Air won't work for larger and bulkier products, of course, like kayaks and tablesaws.
"It looks like science fiction, but it's real," Amazon said.
Commercial availability for Prime Air is not expected until 2015 at the earliest, pending approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is creating rules for unmanned aerial vehicles, Amazon said.
"The FAA is actively working on rules and an approach for unmanned aerial vehicles that will prioritize public safety," the company said. "Safety will be our top priority, and our vehicles will be built with multiple redundancies and designed to commercial aviation standards."
Amazon expects drone delivery for packages to become commonplace in the future. "One day, Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today," the company said.
Check out an Amazon Prime Air video below, showing off a prototype unit.
60 Minutes airs on GameSpot parent company network CBS.