Amazon’s drone fleet will not be comprised of the boxy, clunky aircraft debuted by Jeff Bezos on 60 Minutes two years ago, but of sleek hovercraft like the one pictured here. This prototype promises to be one of of several PrimeAir models that will be applied to making deliveries in various environments, according to Top Gear star Jeremy Clarkson in a video released by Amazon this week.
Having been sacked by the BBC for allegedly assaulting a producer of the immensely popular car show, Clarkson—along with co-stars Richard Hammond and James May—was signed in July to a $240 million contract to create a similar show on Amazon. In the meantime, Clarkson is serving as an Amazon video pitchman.
His drone piece tells the story in the “not too distant future” of a little girl who gets her sneaker chewed up by the family dog and has it miraculously replaced by PrimeAir in the space of 30 minutes. In the high-toned British accent so familiar to auto fans, Clarkson describes the new craft’s operations: “After rising vertically like a helicopter to nearly 400 feet, this amazing hybrid design assumes a horizontal orientation and becomes a streamlined and fast airplane.”
Amazon released no details about when it expects PrimeAir to officially take wing. The online retailer received clearance to test drones weighing 55 pounds or less from the Federal Aviation Administration in April. At a NASA conference on unmanned aircraft systems in July, PrimeAir project chief Gur Kimchi laid out a plan that would create a no-fly zone between elevations of 400 to 500 feet for the express use of commercial drones.
In late October Walmart applied to the FAA for approval to test its own drones, which will apparently be used to track truck fleet logistics, as well as to make deliveries.