Amazon Prime Air Drone Inducted to Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

The drone will be displayed to help visitors learn about the early stages of autonomous delivery. 

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has officially inducted an Amazon Prime Air hybrid drone into its collection of essential examples of aviation history, according to the museum’s press release

While nationwide drone delivery is still very much non-existent, unmanned aerial technologies are increasingly entering popular consciousness and mainstream culture with each passing year. The air and space-centric museum is clearly looking ahead here, making sure to stay in lockstep with humanity’s aerial progress and present that evolution with appropriate relevance and historical validity. 

Amazon, of course, has the American capitalist dream at its foundation: from a scrappy bookstore on the nascent world wide web to the biggest online retailer in the world. As the burgeoning modern drone landscape threatens to shift entire industries into new business models and strategies, Amazon has been preparing for that sea change through research and development, trial tests, and patent applications. Amazon Prime Air, of course, is an example of that foresight.

The museum’s statement includes a contextualizing prologue regarding the history of airmail delivery, which reportedly began when Earle Ovington carried a mailbag with him on a flight in 1911 and tossed it overboard for the postmaster to retrieve. 

A little over 100 years later, we’re seeing autonomous drone systems and vehicles being developed, patents for aerial fulfillment centers being filed, and companies ranging from Amazon to DroneDek establishing solutions to certain impending infrastructural drone-centric realities. The Smithsonian wisely sees the Prime Air drone’s inclusion in the museum as part of an essential piece to accurately convey how far the industry has come.

The hybrid drone on display is a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) UAV capable of reaching an altitude of nearly 400 feet and flying over 10 miles from an Amazon warehouse to a customer’s residence. According to the museum, Amazon’s drone will be on display as an object lesson in how significant unmanned aerial vehicles have become in molding a new, autonomous future.