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Amazon testing 'octocopter' package-delivery drones

Need a delivery fast? Amazon Prime Air might someday get a package to you within 30 minutes, via octocopter. Jeff Bezos says so.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows Charlie Rose prototypes of the delivery drones.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows CBS' Charlie Rose prototypes of the delivery drones. CBS

Amazon is testing a delivery service that uses drones to deliver packages within 30 minutes of an order being placed.

Dubbed Amazon Prime Air, the service uses 8-propeller drones about the size of a remote-controlled airplane to transport shoebox-size plastic bins from fulfillment centers to customers' homes. The service, which still requires more testing and clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration, could take to the skies as soon as four to five years, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told Charlie Rose during an interview Sunday on "60 Minutes." (Disclosure: "60 Minutes" is produced by CBS, which also is the parent company to CNET.)

The little unmanned aerial vehicles rely on GPS to deliver their cargo, Bezos explained during the segment (see below), which included an Amazon film of the drones in action.

"I know this looks like science fiction -- it's not," Bezos said.

In fact, aerial drones already deliver packages in China, and a textbook rental start-up in Australia will deliver its packages by drone to Sydney customers starting next spring.

Amazon said in an FAQ that the FAA is working on creating rules governing use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

"One day, Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today," the company FAQ said, noting that safety was a key concern. "Our vehicles will be built with multiple redundancies and designed to commercial aviation standards."