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Amazon Prime Air to use scary drones for 30-minute delivery

Amazon has outlined a terrifying future in which computer-controlled octocopters will deliver low-weight goods to your door in less than 30 minutes.

Nick Hide Managing copy editor
Nick manages CNET's advice copy desk from Springfield, Virginia. He's worked at CNET since 2005.
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In a move sure to have George Orwell spluttering on his heavenly breakfast tea and William Gibson laughing orange juice out of his nose, Amazon plans to use a fleet of terrifying drones to deliver your goods in under half an hour.

The outlandish scheme, announced by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos at a time convenient to highlighting his company's Christmas deals, will see computer-controlled octocopters delivering low-weight goods to your door in less than 30 minutes.

"We can carry objects, we think, up to 5 pounds (2.3kg), which covers 86 per cent of the items that we deliver," Bezos told our sister site CBS News. "And so, it won't work for everything; you know, we’re not gonna deliver kayaks or table saws this way," Bezos says. "These are electric motors, so this is all electric; it's very green, it's better than driving trucks around."

The drones can cover a 10-mile radius, so would only be feasible for urban areas, and there's no mention of how it might deliver to someone in a flat, or an office block. How Amazon will prevent underoccupied teenagers shooting them down with air rifles and looting their robotic corpses is another matter for careful consideration.

Here's a video showing how it works -- underpaid warehouse worker pops your spanner in a plastic box, box goes on conveyer belt, drone picks it up and flies to your spacious patio.

You can keep your consumer-surveillance dystopia fears at bay, however, because Amazon will need to be cleared by air-safety bodies such as the EASA here in Europe and the FAA in the US. That's unlikely to happen until later this decade.

"It looks like science fiction, but it's real," Amazon boasts. "From a technology point of view, we'll be ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place. The FAA is actively working on rules for unmanned aerial vehicles."

Amazon was criticised last month for overworking its warehouse staff in the run up to Christmas, with one undercover BBC reporter complaining of having to walk miles without breaks, constantly harangued by a bleeping device.

The Beeb is no stranger to drones, having recently shown off its new aerial camera system, Alan.

Would you like your next games console delivered by a creepy electric flying machine? Or is this too bonkers to ever work? Leave your flight plan in the comments, or over on our unmanned Facebook page.