Just before the holidays we received a very exciting phone call inviting us to bring a group of kids to the Amazon Prime Air Drone Lab in Cambridge! We put out the word through our Cambridge area mailing list and had tons of kids show interest. Unfortunately we could only take ten of them. I know the parents were disappointed that they couldn’t join us, too…
We met up near the train station and went to Amazon’s secret location. We got there a bit early so we played a round or two of pool while we waited for our guides to set up. :) The lab itself was super cool – there were loads of prototypes, including some of the earliest ones. We saw a video explaining the purpose of the drones and how they would work. We also saw some live footage of the drones in action in the Cambridge area. There are currently two clients in the area, receiving drone deliveries.
Our guide, Lauren, told us about how they used rapid prototyping concepts and 3D printing to iterate, adjusting connectors, feet and other parts. We talked about how they thought about drones in terms of what they could carry, how they would drop it off and what kinds of environments they would be in. We saw examples of quadcopters, octocopters, and drones with forward thrust. We also learned about autonomous flying and obstacle-avoidance, and were given official drone flying safety rules.
We got to try our hand on the drone flight simulator. It was harder than it looked to get the drone to touch down on the landing pad!
Our campers were so enthusiastic and knowledgeable answering questions about engineering concepts that a couple of them just about got a job on the spot.
Lauren explained about the kinds of materials they are using for the prototypes, and how long it takes to 3D print the parts.
Finally we had a chance to fly drones! They ingeniously had the drones contained in a glass room so that all crashes against walls and other drones were safely away from us. Everyone got a chance to pilot. One of the tricky things was that the drones would get turned around and then the directions would be inversed.
It was so interesting to see engineering and rapid prototyping at work, and to see how an innovative company like Amazon designs, iterates, and tests their new delivery systems. Thanks so much to Lauren and Av, Lauren and the whole team at Amazon that put together such an inspiring morning for us!