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Amazon Plans to Use Self-Driving Drones to Deliver Packages in Months

“From paragliders to power lines to a corgi in the backyard, the brain of the drone has safety covered,” said Jeff Wilke, who oversees Amazon's retail business

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Gur Kimchi, Vice President of Amazon Prime Air, talks about Amazon's drone delivery service, Prime Air, during the Amazon re:MARS convention, June 5, 2019, in Las Vegas. VOA

Amazon said Wednesday that it plans to use self-driving drones to deliver packages to shoppers’ home in the coming months.

The online shopping giant did not give exact timing or say where the drones will be making deliveries. Amazon said its new drones use computer vision and machine learning to detect and avoid people or laundry clotheslines in backyards when landing.

“From paragliders to power lines to a corgi in the backyard, the brain of the drone has safety covered,” said Jeff Wilke, who oversees Amazon’s retail business. Wilke said the drones are fully electric, can fly up to 15 miles and carry packages that weigh up to five pounds.

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The new Amazon delivery drone is displayed on a screen during the Amazon Re:MARS conference on robotics and artificial intelligence in Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 5, 2019. VOA

Amazon has been working on drone delivery for years. Back in December 2013, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos told the “60 Minutes” news show that drones would be flying to customer’s homes within five years. But that deadline passed due to regulatory hurdles.

ALSO READ: Scientists Use Drones to Detect Health of Migrating Whales in Australia

The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates commercial use of drones in the U.S., did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. In April, a subsidiary of search giant Google won approval from the FAA to make drone deliveries in parts of Virginia. (VOA)

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Environmental Activists Postpone Drone Protest at London Airport; Could Endanger Travelers’ Life

Heathrow Airport called the planned action "reckless", saying it "could endanger the lives of the traveling public and our colleagues"

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FILE - A photo shows a large screen at Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 in London, Britain, April 23, 2014. VOA

A group of British environmental activists have postponed their plan to ground flights at London’s Heathrow Airport. Extinction Rebellion had planned to use drones to paralyze Europe’s busiest airport intermittently in June and July to draw attention to the environmental harm that would be caused by the planned third runway.

The first of the protests was to take place Tuesday. “Extinction Rebellion will not be carrying out any actions at Heathrow Airport in June or July this year,” the group said in a statement. “The Heathrow Airport authorities will therefore not have to pause any summer flights.”

On Friday, British law enforcement authorities warned the activists that flying drones would result in life in prison for the participants. Heathrow Airport called the planned action “reckless”, saying it “could endanger the lives of the traveling public and our colleagues”.

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In December, thousands of flights were grounded at Gatwick Airport outside London after drones were spotted flying around it. Wikimedia Commons

But the group rejected claims that its actions could cause harm.  The group said it is not abandoning its plans for drone protests. On Sunday, it detailed its plans saying the lightweight drones would only be flown at head height within the 5 kilometer exclusion zone around Heathrow, forcing the airport to ground flights.   It did not disclose the dates for its protests.

ALSO READ: Washington Supplies 34 Aerial Drones to Southeast Asians through Security Assistance Funds

“There is nothing violent about flying drones when there are no flights in the air as it is perfectly safe,” the group said in a statement. “We are there first. The responsibility is with the airport authority to not initiate flights.”

Extinction Rebellion said its aim was to achieve “economic disruption” not to hurt people. In December, thousands of flights were grounded at Gatwick Airport outside London after drones were spotted flying around it. Extinction Rebellion says it was not responsible for that action. (VOA)