Founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos unveils plans for Amazon Prime Air which allows the online retailer to use unmanned drones to deliver small packages

Amazon is testing delivery packages using drones, chief executive and founder Jeff Bezos said on Sunday on the CBS television programme "60 Minutes."

Mr Bezos said the drones, unmanned vehicles that fly through the air, could deliver packages that weigh up to five pounds (2.3kg).

That represents roughly 86pc of packages that Amazon delivers, he said.

The drones, which would pick up items from Amazon's distribution centres and fly them to customer's homes, probably won't be put into use for four or five years, Bezos said.

"I know this looks like science fiction. It's not," Mr Bezos told 60 Minutes. "We can do half-hour delivery."

The mini-drones are powered by electric motors and could cover areas within a 10-mile radius of distribution centres, thus covering a significant portion of the population in urban areas.

They operate autonomously and drop the items at the target locations thanks to GPS coordinates transmitted to them.

"It's very green, it's better than driving trucks around," said Mr Bezos.

Amazon said the octocopters would be "ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place," noting that the Federal Aviation Administration was actively working on rules for unmanned aerial vehicles.

Bezos hinted that part of the motivation behind the mini-drones was to make sure Amazon remains on the cutting edge of the retail industry.

"Companies have short life spans... And Amazon will be disrupted one day," he said. "I would love for it to be after I'm dead."

Amazon's book-selling rivals Waterstones have been quick to respond to Amazon's announcement with a spoof innovation of their own.

Edited by Steve Wilson