Amazon is building a new Prime Air Development Center in Clichy, France, that will employ about a dozen software developers tasked with creating a traffic control system to work the company’s planned fleet of delivery drones, according to VentureBeat.
The new system is being developed with the intent that it will be able to coordinate with other air traffic control systems to make sure that drones don’t interfere with other aircrafts, and that Amazon’s delivery fleet also can avoid birds in flight.
Amazon earlier this month announced a new technology development center in the U.K. that will focus mostly on its device developments, freeing up another U.K. tech center to spend most of its efforts work on technologies in support of Prime Air.
Collision avoidance has been listed as one of the challenges drone delivery companies must solve if the market is to take off in the coming years. Being able to coordinate with existing air traffic control systems is a necessary piece of that, and if Amazon can prove technical proficiency in solving that problem, it will likely come much closer to winning Federal Aviation Administration support to broaden its drone delivery efforts in the U.S.
Mastering drone air traffic control also will help on a practical level as Amazon aims to achieve efficiency with its drone routes. Eventually, the company will need to coordinate many of its low-flying drones criss-crossing markets to deliver packages and avoid drones from other players, as well as incredibly uncooperative geese.
After first talking about its drone delivery dreams a few years ago, Amazon's Prime Air drone project within the last year arguably was overshadowed by progress made by companies like Flirtey and 7-Eleven on FAA-approved pilot programs. Several other companies have also grabbed headlines for their drone efforts and Amazon recently moved its drone efforts overseas.
Now, Western Europe increasingly is becoming a development hub for Prime Air (not to mention other key Amazon technologies), as Amazon has appeared to pick up the pace recently with its drone delivery program. The company had its first live drone delivery to a customer in the U.K. several months ago, and has since conducted a test in the U.S., and also has been busy pursuing patents related to drone delivery.
Perfecting air traffic management for delivery drones will be a major step forward for Amazon's drone delivery ambitions. Another major step yet to be taken: finding out how most consumers actually feel about being visited by delivery drones.