LOCKEFORD – Amazon is flying into the future with drone deliveries through Prime Air. The Amazon Fulfillment Center in the San Joaquin County town of Lockeford is one of two Prime Air locations in the world that has been delivering packages by drone over the past year.
A package that is normally delivered by car is now getting into the hands of customers through the air.
These drones deliver anything from grocery to beauty to health or pet items.
“The most-ordered item last week was a toothbrush,” said Erik Garcia Robertson, the site leader of commercial operations at the Prime Air PCA 4 Fulfillment Center in Lockeford.
The 80-pound drones can carry an item that’s up to five pounds, soaring through the sky at a speed of up to 60 miles per hour.
Each item is placed in an Amazon delivery box that looks similar to a shoe box.
“I don’t know why they need the drone,” said Chris Saelustro, who lives near Lockeford.
Saelustro said Amazon Prime already delivers on the same day.
“How much faster can you get something?” he said.
Prime Air prides itself in making deliveries within 60 minutes, sometimes even 30 minutes.
“That is quicker than most of Instacart or DoorDashing, and I do that a lot,” said Carina Borra, who lives near Lockeford.
Amazon Prime customers who are in the delivery range can opt-in to have drone deliveries. Prime Air assesses their location, determines any obstacles and gives the customer a marker for the drone to safely land on during deliveries there.
“Customers are able to place this in their yard at their convenience to make sure the delivery happens at the right spot,” said Garcia Robertson.
The electrically powered drones fly on their own. Prime Air said the drones use “sense and avoid technology” to safely fly around obstacles.
“We are always assessing the areas in the environment,” said Garcia Robertson. “Anything from trees to power lines.”
Crashes have happened inside its closed, private facility while running tests over the years, but Prime Air said it has never had any crashes or incidents during customer flights.
Prime Air said the drones are also helping it get closer to its carbon emission goals of having zero emissions by 2040.
“It is really great for us folks out in the rural area who will take us 20 minutes to go into town,” said Borra. “Your time and fuel are put into perspective.”
Prime Air also works closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to determine which areas are safe and secure to fly.
The drone deliveries in Lockeford have been in the works since 2013. Prime Air is also making drone deliveries in College Station, Texas.
Exactly how many packages are being delivered by drone daily is unclear, but the Lockeford site has eight drones in total.