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Amazon Prime Air gets a new drone

Amazon's new drone could bring the company one step closer 30-minute delivery, but the U.S. government is still standing in the way.

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Amazon's new drone could bring the company one step closer 30-minute delivery, but the US government is still standing in the way.

Amazon unveiled a new drone that takes off like a helicopter and then flies like a plane. It could deliver packages in less than 30 minutes and up to 15 miles away. It builds on the first prototype, shown off two years ago. This new design gives the drone the flexibility in landing, but the forward speed and efficiency of an airplane. The faster forward speed means it will be able to reach distant delivery targets more quickly. That's important since one of the main concerns with drone flight is fuel - be it an electric battery or gas engine.

While new for Amazon, Google employs a similar vertical takeoff and landing system in its Project Wing. The US military's Osprey has been using the design since the 1980s.

Amazon's Prime Air delivery service is dependent on the US's FAA regulations, which currently prohibit even a commercial drone from flying out of sight of its operator. Amazon is lobbying heavily for a change and wants to establish a drone highway in the air.

The company said its latest drone has a "sense and avoid" system which will allow it to avoid obstacles both in the air and on the ground. That system is clearly aimed at having the line of sight restriction lifted from FAA regulations.

Before the drone delivers the package customers will have to double check that the landing area is clear. After dropping the delivery off the drone would return to its home base.

When Amazon unveiled its first prototype two years ago it said it expected to have regulations finalized in 2015.