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Amazon recently unveiled the latest version of their delivery drone at a conference in Las Vegas, stating its plans to be delivering packages by drone “within months”.

In the past, Amazon has been accused of using the idea of a drone as a publicity stunt, making it into the news in order to push their Prime membership. However, they ran a successful trial in Cambridge in December 2016, in which a drone delivered a package in 13 minutes.

Although the company have not made clear where they intend the drones to be in use, the US Federal Aviation Administration has granted a permit to operate them in the US.

At the conference - ‘Re:Mars’, an event run to highlight Amazon’s work in machine learning, robotics, automation and space - the company was keen to emphasise what is new about the drones they have developed.

Amazon executive Jeff Wilke presented the new technology, stating that “some drones are autonomous but not able to react to the unexpected, relying simply on communications systems for situational awareness”.  Their drone, however, “sees” the surroundings using data from visual, thermal and ultrasonic sensors.  This means it should be “independently safe” as it will avoid objects in its path.

This development may be of interest to Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematics applicants, who could further research the state of drone technology and how it is advancing.  Economics applicants might also consider the role of technology in economic development.

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