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Amazon shows off its top secret drone lab

Amazon has opened the doors to its secret drone delivery research lab in Cambridge for the first time, allowing local newspaper The Cambridge News inside along with eight primary school students.

The company has been working on its Prime Air drone delivery service for some time, but details of the project have been sparse at best.

Now, The Cambridge News has revealed details of the research and development site, where the Prime Air drones are being developed.

The service will eventually see drones deliver 2kg packages up to 15 miles in less than 30 minutes while flying at speeds of up to 50mph.

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Using GPS, the drones will locate delivery addresses before flying at a maximum height of 400ft to deliver packages, with each being monitored by a human safety operator.

Photos of “The Lab”, as it’s known, reveal Amazon Prime Air logos, 3D printers, and work benches, with the students being shown several drone prototypes and different types of batteries and wing designs.

The Cambridge facility is thought to be the biggest of all Amazon’s drone research labs, with other facilities in Austria, Israel, and the US.

Amazon Prime Air drone

As Kristen Kish, corporate communications for Prime Air, told The Cambridge News: “We’re continuing to do more and more in Cambridgeshire. It’s continuing to be an area of significance and importance for Amazon.

“…Cambridge is a hub of innovation, it has a long history of doing amazing things. For us it really made good sense — there is fantastic talent here too.”

Amazon’s Cambridge lab is eight miles away from its largest outdoor drone test site, as discovered by Business Insider earlier this year.

In July, the US firm was given permission to trial the drone delivery system, with the Civil Aviation Authority approving three different areas of research:

  • Beyond line of sight operations in rural and suburban areas
  • Testing sensor performance to make sure the drones can identify and avoid obstacles
  • Flights where one person operates multiple highly-automated drones

It remains unclear when Amazon Prime Air will officially launch, but a spokesperson for the company previously told the Guardian the service wouldn’t roll out to the public until the firm can “demonstrate safety”.

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