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Amazon delivery drone
A prototype Amazon delivery drone. Photo via Amazon.

Amazon’s delivery drones will be able to fly up to 20 miles at speeds faster than 50 mph, and find their landing spots via symbols that customers will print out on their computers and place outside.

“You just need a landing field,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at an event in Seattle this weekend. “And if you have a landing field, you can mark it with a symbol which you can print out on your printer and put wherever you want the vehicle to land.”

The plan was one of the new details shared by the Amazon CEO as part of a broader discussion at the Pathfinder Awards ceremony at Seattle’s Museum of Flight on Saturday. Bezos talked about about the program’s progress and what’s in store for drone deliveries during the on-stage interview.

Jeff Bezos at the Museum of Flights 2016 Pathfinder Awards. (Photo by GeekWire/Kevin Lisota)
Jeff Bezos at the Museum of Flights 2016 Pathfinder Awards. (Photo by Kevin Lisota/GeekWire)

“We’re getting really good cooperation from the British equivalent of the FAA, the CAA,” Bezos said. “It’s incredible. It’s really cool.”

In the U.S., the FAA hasn’t been so cooperative. In June, the agency imposed a series of restrictions that will make Amazon’s drone package delivery program difficult unless the company can get specific waivers. All hope for Amazon’s U.S. drone ambitions isn’t lost, though. The FAA added an exec from Amazon’s Prime Air drone delivery operation to a new advisory committee that should give the company more of a voice in policy decisions.

When the drones are deployed, they’ll be able to deliver packages weighing less than five pounds, which Amazon says covers 86 percent of the products it sells.

Bezos also said Amazon is working out how to deliver, by drone, to urban and dense suburban areas, which he says are among the “hardest neighborhoods.”

It’s possible the drones will recharge themselves on docking stations installed throughout urban areas, according to previous patent applications. 

So what happens if the drone has trouble reaching its destination? Bezos addressed that issue Saturday, as well.

“If it sees anything that makes it nervous, it can divert, or phone home for help and get a human to help it land,” he said.

Amazon isn’t the only company pursuing the approach of using symbols to direct drone deliveries. Google has applied for a patent for an aerial delivery device that “locates the machine-readable code on a display at the delivery address and verifies that the information from the machine-readable code is associated with the package. The delivery device deposits the package on the display.”

Watch Bezos talk drone delivery below and catch up on the rest of the interview here.

The video shown at the beginning of that clip was this one from last year.

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