Supply chain · 27 July 2016

Amazon Prime Air drones cleared to fly in Britain

Amazon Prime Air aims to deliver products to customers via drone within 30 minutes of ordering
The British government has granted Amazon permission to begin flying drones and start testing deliveries, in advance of the UK launch of its planned Amazon Prime Air service.

In a move that could further shake things up for Britain’s smaller local retailers, the US online retail giant has been cleared to fly drones further than the line of sight of an operator in UK airspace by the government and the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Amazon will be able to test sensors to see if drones crash into buildings or objects, as well as test how many drones one operator can fly without losing control.

The development sees the online retailer take a step closer to rolling out Amazon Prime Air across the UK. The new service will aim to deliver products to customers via drone within 30 minutes of ordering, requiring Amazon to stock products in warehouses near enough to homes and offices to reach customers in under half an hour.

While in reality only a limited set of products may be available for immediate delivery at any one time, with other items available via an overnight express service, Amazon Prime Air is expected to deter some customers from shopping with local retailers.

It is not the first of Amazon’s new services to be viewed by some as a threat to small suppliers and local retailers.

Serious concerns have been raised about Amazon Prime Now the company’s superfast delivery service about how it might impact local economies by drawing custom away from independent retailers.

Free for Amazon Prime members, Now? offers same-day delivery within two hours. But, when introduced in Paris in June this year, mayor of the French capital Anne Hidalgo claimed that the service would ‘seriously destabilise the balance of Parisian businesses.

Small business owners have complained about the barriers to entry Prime Now builds, including free and speedy delivery.



Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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