By Mariella Moon
Amazon recently stopped testing its Scout sidewalk delivery robot and made other decisions indicating that it’s scaling back its experimental projects. Looks like its delivery drone development for Prime Air is still going strong, though, because the e-commerce giant has just released a sneak peek of its next-gen machine. The MK30 was designed to be lighter than the current model dubbed MK27-2. It will still have six rotors like its predecessor, based on the images the e-commerce giant has shared, except it no longer has a full hexagonal frame.
The e-commerce giant is slated to start drone deliveries in College Station, Texas and Lockeford, California later this year to help it gauge people’s interest in getting their orders flown over and dropped into their yards. Amazon will be using MK27-2 for those tests — this model won’t be in service until 2024. The company says MK30 has a longer range than the MK27-2, has a higher temperature tolerance and has the capability to fly in light rain. In addition, Prime Air’s Flight Science team has designed new propellers that will apparently reduce the new drone’s perceived noise by around 25 percent.
The company’s drones aren’t that noisy to begin with —according to the FAA’s draft environmental assessment (PDF) of drone package deliveries in College Station, the noise MK27-2 makes would be unlikely to cause disturbance and is “not expected to affect wildlife behavior…” Amazon treats reducing the noise its drones make as an important engineering challenge, though, and it believes all of the MK30’s qualities combined would enable customers to “choose drone delivery more often. The company didn’t reveal a specific plan for drone delivery expansion in its post, but it promises to make the service available “to more customers in the months and years to come.”