The Team Behind Prime Air, Amazon’s Audacious Delivery Bet

George Paul August 31, 2020
Prime Air Drone
Editorial Credit: JORDAN STEAD / Amazon

Amazon has finally received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate its delivery drones in the United States. By receiving an Air Carrier Certificate from the FAA, the e-commerce titan can now begin drone delivery operations on a trial basis. While consumers can't expect Amazon to regularly deliver packages to their yards, the acheivment bring the company one step closer to a nationwide autonomous drone delivery network.

The company’s nascent drone delivery service, Prime Air, was first unveiled in mid-2019 but didn’t follow up with commercial operations, despite expectations that it would begin deliveries within months of its initial announcement. This setback but that didn’t stop the company from continuing to invest in the nascent service, which now could slice Amazon’s delivery times to just minutes.

Prime Air's drones are capable of carrying 5 pounds of packages up to 15 miles and can operate from a delivery hub. These drones are a significant innovation in the delivery industry as they can drastically cut emissions by flying over obstacles like traffic and avoid winding roads to take the most efficient route. Now that the FAA has signed off on Prime Air’s operations, the business unit can compete against rivals like Google’s drone delivery subsidiary Wing and logistics giant UPS, which both received their approval in 2019.

In conversation with Bloomberg, VP of Prime Air David Carbon stated that the FAA's decision “indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world.”

Meet Carbon and the team responsible for making Amazon's delivery dream one step closer to reality.

Amazon Desktop 6/24

In March 2020, Carbon became the Amazon exec in charge of the electric delivery drone service, replacing Gur Kimchi, who took on an unspecified new role. Carbon was reportedly tapped for the position in order to transform Prime Air into a business-driven group that is better aligned with Amazon broader retail organization. Prior to signing on to Amazon’s drone project Carbon was a long-time executive with Boeing, where he led all aspects of operations for the 787 including Manufacturing, Assembly, Delivery, Materials, and Supplier Management.

The technology Carbon and his team are perfecting could change the way Amazon delivers packages, and the man responsible for this technology is the drone service’s Chief Engineer, Fabio Guida. He is has a depth of experience in the aerospace industry and before he joined Amazon in April 2019, he served as the Chief Technology Officer of Piaggio Aerospace, a leading Italian aircraft manufacturer.

Alongside a safe and reliable drone, one of the most important factors in gaining FAA approval is assuaging any other concerns regulators might have. This job is tackled by Sean Cassidy, the drone service’s Director of Safety and Regulatory Affairs. Cassidy is a longtime pilot with decades of experience with both commercial operations and the US Navy. He also held leadership roles at the Air Line Pilots Association, giving him the experience needed to maneuver through the regulatory channels need to gain approval for Prime Air’s operations.

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