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Amazon Prime Air's new delivery drone could sneak up on you

It's part helicopter, part airplane, and all about being quiet.

Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Ben Fox Rubin
2 min read
Amazon Prime Air Drone revealed at 2019 re:MARS conference

Amazon's trying out a new design for its Prime Air drones.

Jordan Stead/Amazon

Amazon on Wednesday unveiled its latest Prime Air drone -- a hybrid model that borrows from both helicopter and airplane designs.

Like a helicopter, the drone can do vertical takeoffs and landings, but it can also fly around aerodynamically like an airplane. It can easily switch between those modes too, Amazon says, and it's fully shrouded for safety.

Jeff Wilke, Amazon's global head of consumer business, introduced the new device at Amazon's first re:MARS conference, in Las Vegas, which the company bills as "a new global AI event on machine learning, automation, robotics, and space."

Wilke said the drone's propellers were optimized to reduce high-frequency sounds.

"Just because you want your package delivered quickly doesn't mean you want you or your neighbors to hear it coming," Wilke told a crowd during a keynote address.

The drone will keep a lookout for things that might get in the way as it descends, using a combination of stereo vision and AI algorithms "trained to detect people and animals from above," Amazon said in a blog post.

Watch this: Amazon's drones and robots want to take over your deliveries

The new drone was revealed amid Amazon's massive investment to transition its Prime two-day shipping program to just one day. Delivery drones aren't widely available for US customers because of the need for regulatory approvals. But Amazon is hoping to use these devices to get customers items that weigh five pounds or less in about 30 minutes, helping it deliver products to shoppers much faster.

Getting drones approved could bring about an even bigger change in consumer shopping, pushing more purchasing to online stores like Amazon and away from local shops and big-box brick-and-mortar stores.


A previous version of Amazon's delivery drone, which also offers a hybrid helicopter-airplane-like design.


Wilke said the new delivery drones will be shipping packages to customers in months, though he offered few details. When asked later by reporters where these drones could end up, Wilke said he didn't have any announcement Wednesday on that issue but said Amazon is working with regulatory agencies to launch a commercial drone-delivery service, which Amazon has previously said it's doing.

The company is already piloting delivery drones in the UK and has approval to test drone deliveries in the US.

Wilke was also asked if there would be many kinds of Amazon drones going forward. He replied: "This is my favorite one now and we're going to keep working on them," adding that there will probably be a fleet sometime in the future, with "different birds for different reasons."

Originally published June 5.
Updated June 5 and June 6: Added more information about Amazon's drones.

Watch this: What Amazon's one-day shipping means for you