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Amazon Prime Air drone
An Amazon Prime Air drone is prepared for display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. (Smithsonian Photo)

Amazon’s drone delivery service is still in its experimental phase, but it’s already destined to become a part of American history at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

An Amazon Prime Air hybrid drone is being prepared for display in the museum’s Thomas W. Haas We All Fly gallery when it opens in Washington, D.C., in 2021. The “We All Fly” exhibition will highlight general aviation themes such as sport flying, private airplanes and flying for business, humanitarian and utility purposes.

The drone will go on display alongside such aircraft as the Cessna 180, Gates Lear jet, Cirrus SR22 and the Oracle Challenger III aerobatic biplane.

Amazon has been testing a variety of drone designs for its delivery service, at hush-hush sites in locales ranging from rural Washington state  and Canada to Israel and the Netherlands. The blue-white-and-orange model that’s going to the Smithsonian is of the type that was featured back in November 2015. It’s a hybrid model, with one set of rotors for vertical lift and another set that drives the drone forward.

Other models, such as the experimental drones that made Amazon Prime Air’s first aerial drop-offs in England in 2016 and in California in 2017, look markedly different.

It’s too early to tell what kind of Amazon drone will enter commercial service, or when. Amazon isn’t participating in the Federal Aviation Administration’s recently announced test program for drone applications.

Some of its competitors are, however. One of them, the Google spin-out known as Wing, began beyond-line-of-sight deliveries of ice cream and other goodies just last week as part of the FAA pilot program.

If Amazon keeps up with the pack, its drones just might be in the air along with those of Wing, Matternet, Airbus, Zipline, Flirtey and other ventures by the time the “We All Fly” exhibition opens. We all fly, indeed.

Hat tip to Isaac Alexander, a.k.a. @jetcitystar.

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