When filmmaker George Lucas popularized droids — worker robots designed to tend to humanity’s every need — in the 1977 movie “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,” he seemed like a sci-fi visionary. But fast-forward nearly 40 years, and the idea of flying surveillance cameras, robotic companions and even unmanned aircraft carrying supplies around the planet is swiftly becoming mainstream.
The first drone delivery in the United States took place this past summer, marking an important milestone in the development of the new technology. But even though Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made headlines in 2013 when he unveiled thecompany’s vision for using delivery drones, the online retail giant was not the one to carry out the first-ever delivery flight.
Instead, Australian startup Flirtey, in partnership with Virginia Tech and NASA, used a drone to carry 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) of medical supplies from an airfield in Virginia to a remote clinic about a mile away over three 3-minute flights. While the demonstration was a landmark moment for drone technology and policy, it was a far cry from Amazon’s vision of a fleet of drones delivering online purchases to customers’ doorsteps within 30 minutes. [Best Drones for You, from our sister site Tom’s Guide]
Still, Amazon is committed to making its drone delivery program, dubbed Prime Air, a reality. In April, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted the company permission to begin testing its drones. But Amazon isn’t the only tech giant doubling down on drone technology.