Amazon Unveils Hybrid 30 Minute Delivery Drone
Amazon has unveiled a new hybrid delivery drone that can fly both vertically, as a helicopter capable of landing in customers’ backyards, and horizontally like a conventional plane. The drone can travel up to 15 miles at high speed.
The hybrid is conceived as the prototype workhorse for Amazon Prime, the futuristic delivery service that aspires to carry purchases to customers within 30 minutes of an order.
The rotary element includes eight propellers organised in four pairs of coaxial rotors – where one is mounted over the other – in a quadcopter layout. These are fitted to two horizontal booms, one to either side of the drone’s central torpedo-like fuselage which carries the packages and the batteries to power it. Coaxial rotors are less efficient than single rotor propellers and they require about 40% more power for the same thrust. But they do provide larger thrust for a given rotor area – a way of packing the most thrust into a small-bodied aircraft.
The aircraft is one of several prototypes being evaluated by Amazon, and shows some interesting concepts. Inevitably, there’s a difficult compromise to be struck between the need for vertical take-off and landing and forward flight efficiency. The wings and control surfaces add extra weight, reducing flight time, while the rotors, their motors, and the extra structural elements they require will add more weight and drag, reducing its range. It will be interesting to see how Amazon balance these conflicting requirements as their designs progress.