Amazon’s started to deliver orders by drones in California and Texas

Amazon is now delivering orders by drones in California and Texas with the aim to ultimately fly out packages to customers’ homes within an hour, Ars Technica reports. The retail giant’s drone delivery service, Amazon Prime Air, already dropped a small number of packages via drone in the backyards of customers in the run-up to Christmas in Lockeford, California, and College Station, Texas.

“Our aim is to safely introduce our drones to the skies. We are starting in these communities and will gradually expand deliveries to more customers over time,” Amazon Air spokesperson Natalie Banke told KTXL Fox 40.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave Amazon Part 135 approval to send packages by drone in 2020, as well as filing Final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact/Record of Decision documents for Lockeford on November 14th and College Station on December 12th.

The rural town of Lockeford, California, is located 50 miles southeast of Sacramento and has only about 3,500 residents, while College Station, Texas, is a medium-sized city 100 miles northwest of Houston that’s home to Texas A&M.

Those living in either town are eligible to sign up and place orders, while Amazon will notify customers elsewhere when drone delivery is available in their area. The most recent filings indicate Amazon’s deliveries will be available within 3.73 miles of its delivery center in Texas and within four miles of its drone depot (aka Prime Air Drone Delivery Center, or PADDC) in California.


Operations from the College Station PADDC would occur during daylight hours up to five days per week. The operating area is divided into four sectors, with each sector having a maximum of approximately 50 delivery flights per operating day. Only one aircraft in each sector can be airborne at any time. Operations from the Lockeford PADDC would occur during daylight hours up to five days per week. The operating area is divided into four sectors, with each sector having a maximum of approximately 50 delivery flights per operating day. Only one aircraft in each sector can be airborne at any time.

After placing an order, customers will receive both tracking information and an estimated delivery time they can expect the drone to drop off the package in their backyard.

The drones are intentionally shaped in a hexagonal fashion with six propellers to improve stability and minimize high-frequency sound waves, Amazon claims. Still, though the MK27-2 delivery drones fly autonomously and are programmed to avoid running into obstacles like chimneys, Amazon says it’s currently using humans to monitor deliveries.

Safety will continue to be a consideration, particularly given some setbacks Amazon faced in developing the drone delivery program, including crashes. In one incident at its test site in Pendleton, Oregon, a drone fell 160 feet and sparked a brush fire that stretched across 25 acres, as reported by Insider and Bloomberg.

At current, Amazon is currently working on a new and reportedly safer MK30 drone that will be available to use in 2024. It should be lighter and smaller than MK27-2 delivery drones, handle high temperatures and light rain better, and go further. Amazon is just one of many companies working on their own drone delivery services. Alphabet and Walmart, for example, launched versions of their own in the past year to select customers in certain areas.


Fresno-based Xobee Networks announced Wednesday that it has acquired Myers Network Solutions, a tech solutions provider based out of San Jose.

The acquisition aims to build on Xobee Networks managed IT service clientele as well as allow Xobee to provide resources and products to even more businesses in the Bay Area.

“Through this investment, Xobee will embolden and scale our resources and services to clients within San Jose and across the state,” said Eric Rawn, Xobee Networks founder and CEO. “We are investing in Myers Network Solutions because they are the marquee computer business solutions experts in San Jose, and we are well-positioned to help strengthen their team, resources, and products toward current and future clients.”

Xobee Networks agreed to purchase Myers Network Solutions for $1.7 million. Xobee plans to maintain the entire staff at Myers as they welcome them into the Xobee Networks brand.

Xobee Networks’ addition of Myers Network Solutions adds strength to a workforce of more than 100 skilled tech professionals already at Xobee.

With this acquisition, Xobee hopes to expand its managed support, cloud computing, cybersecurity, telecommunications, web development and networking services at an affordable cost.

“Since the agreement between Xobee Networks and Myers Network Solutions earlier this year, Xobee has been able to increase revenue month over month with an 18% growth in host services offerings,” according to a Xobee news release.

Xobee Networks was founded in 1996 by Eric Rawn, and has since grown to serve thousands of clients throughout California.

Rawn also owns tech solutions firm BCT Consulting in Fresno.

Valley awarded $118M for clean ag equipment

More clean machines are coming to valley farms. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District has accepted an additional $118.8 million to replace agricultural equipment in the San Joaquin Valley, with the funding from the California Air Resources Board seen as a step in reducing agricultural emissions through regulatory and incentive-based strategies. The FARMER Program (Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions) is a collaborative effort between the agricultural community, the air district and CARB in addressing emissions from agricultural sources, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley.

To date, the district has been the recipient of $432,129,600 in FARMER Program funding during the first four funding cycles. “The district appreciates the state recognizing the public health benefit that results from the FARMER funding,” said Samir Sheikh, executive director for the Valley Air District. “The San Joaquin Valley agricultural sector feeds the world and programs like FARMER are critical to supporting the ongoing transition to more sustainable and air-friendly practices.”

Valley agriculture, in partnership with the district and CARB, has invested more than $1.7 billion in public and private funding towards replacing nearly 17,000 pieces of old, higher-polluting equipment and implementing other measures to reduce emissions associated with valley agricultural operations. In March, the valley district approved increases to incentive levels for its Agriculture Tractor Replacement program and added two new incentive tiers for smaller farming operations. Operations of 100 acres and less in size can now receive up to 80% off the cost of equipment, and operations between 101 and 500 acres in size can now receive up to 70% off.

Funding opportunities can be found on the program’s webpage at Smaller farmers also receive an increased incentive under the district’s Alternatives to Agricultural Burning program. The Valley Air District covers eight counties including San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and portions of Kern.

High-speed rail stations ‘one step closer to reality’ in the Central Valley

FRESNO, Calif. – The design contract for the Central Valley’s high-speed rail stations has been approved by the California High-Speed Rail Board – another step towards making the project a reality.

On Thursday, the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s (Authority) Board of Directors unanimously approved awarding the design and support services contract for the Merced, Fresno, Kings/Tulare, and Bakersfield stations that will serve high-speed rail passengers on the initial 171-mile segment. The Authority awarded an approximately $35 million station design contract to Foster + Partners and Arup for the first two separately funded phases. The first to advance the design work at the four station sites. This includes identifying right-of-way and utility relocation requirements necessary for construction. This phase is estimated to take 30 months. The second is to progress to the final design and construction-ready documents, construction support, and commissioning.

“The first four Central Valley high-speed rail stations are one step closer to reality. High-speed rail stations will transform cities, spur economic development and create community hubs within the heart of our state.”


Currently, the California high-speed rail project is under construction along 119 miles in California’s Central Valley at more than 30 active job sites. In the past several months, the Authority also started advanced design work on the alignment to extend work north into Merced and south into Bakersfield.

High-Speed Rail completes second structure in Kings County

The High-Speed Rail Authority has completed the second Kings County structure for the state project — the Kent Avenue Grade Separation located at Kent Avenue west of Highway 43 and south of Hanford. The Authority announced the completion of the 215-foot-long overcrossing, which will take vehicles over the future high-speed rail tracks, on Wednesday. Work crews placed 12 pre-cast concrete girders spanning 56 to 91 feet long to form the structure’s deck.

The new structure is the project’s latest progression in the Central Valley, following the summer completion of the Jackson Avenue separation, which was also in Kings County, and the Avenue 15½ grade separation in Madera County.

In addition, the Authority recently awarded contracts to advance design along the Merced to Madera and Fresno to Bakersfield project sections, expanding the 119-mile segment to 171 miles of electrified high-speed rail under development and construction.

High-Speed Rail Authority Completes Overpass, Opens Roadway to Traffic in Madera County

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. – The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority), in collaboration with contractor Tutor-Perini / Zachry / Parsons, announced today the Avenue 15 ½ Grade Separation in Madera County is now open to traffic. The new overpass is located at Road 29 / Santa Fe Drive, east of the City of Madera. It took 16 pre-cast concrete girders and nearly 117 pre-cast concrete deck panels to complete the structure, which spans 468 feet, is 40 feet wide and takes traffic over the existing BNSF rail and future high-speed rail lines.

Completing another structure in the Central Valley is the latest sign of progress for the high-speed rail project. At its Board of Directors meeting earlier this month, the Authority awarded two contracts to advance design along the Merced to Madera and Fresno to Bakersfield Locally Generated Alternative project sections, expanding the 119-mile segment to 171 miles of electrified high-speed rail under development and construction.

In addition, the Board also approved the environmental documents for the San Francisco to San Jose project section, meaning 422 of the 500-mile high-speed rail system between San Francisco and Los Angeles has been environmentally cleared. Earlier this summer, the Authority announced the creation of more than 8,000 jobs since the start of the project, with a majority going to residents in the Central Valley.

NEWS RELEASE: High-Speed Rail Authority Completes Overpass, Opens Roadway to Traffic in Madera County – California High Speed Rail

Kings County supports basing new F-35 squadron at NAS Lemoore

This week the Kings County Board of Supervisors wrote a strong letter of support to add a new F-35 squadron to the base at NAS Lemoore with a nationwide four-location competition underway. In their letter of support, the supervisors said: “With an excess of 11,800 jobs attributed to the base, and a payroll exceeding $475 million, NAS Lemoore represents the single largest employer in Kings County. The continued success of NAS Lemoore is critical to our local economy. “We stand firm in our commitment to the support of NAS Lemoore – the nation’s premier Naval master jet base. Please know that the County of Kings and the Kings County Board of Supervisors highly support the Department of the Air Force and National Guard Bureau’s decision to consider locating the F-35A Lightning II at NAS Lemoore.”

The local competition includes Fresno Yosemite International Airport. Supervisor Doug Verboon said they support the plan to base the squadron, with some 80 new personnel, at Lemoore, and noted the noisy aircraft would impact more city residents in Fresno compared to the Kings County base, which is surrounded by farmland. The National Guard Bureau and Department of the Air Force are inviting the public to learn about the proposal to locate the F-35A Lightning II at NAS Lemoore. An informational meeting to learn more about the proposal, ask questions and to submit comments will be held in person on Wednesday, Aug. 10, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the L.T.A. Portuguese Hall located at 470 Champion St. in Lemoore.

Lemoore is one of the four preferred locations that are being considered for the beddown of F-35A aircraft that would replace the legacy F-15C/D aircraft. In addition to Fresno, the competing locations for the F-35A beddowns are:

• Barnes Air National Guard Base at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport, Westfield, Massachusetts.

• NAS Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, Belle Chasse, Louisiana.

Faraday Future deal pending

Faraday Future and an investor have indicated a possible deal to invest $100,000 to $600,000 with the start-up car maker, enough to get production going in Hanford if the agreement is done. A filing with the SEC indicates a deal could be consummated Aug. 8.

Gas prices

Kings County gasoline prices are lower again this week dropping 60 cents in the past month, says AAA. Diesel is down 50 cents. The average in the county today is $5.51 a gallon but you can buy gas here for $4.64, $4.65 or $4.66 at local stations. As for oil, it is down to the $91 a barrel range from a high of $121 in mid-June. Oil prices fell more than 3% Wednesday after data showed U.S. inventories rose more than expected and as investors digested the latest OPEC+ decision to raise crude output by 100,000 barrels per day for next month. Last month, President Biden visited Saudi Arabia and called on OPEC to increase production, but capacity constraints and the inability of some member states to meet output targets made the prospect of any significant supply boost unlikely. Meanwhile, EIA data showed stocks of crude unexpectedly rose by 4.467 million barrels last week, the most in a month, and compared to forecasts of a 0.629 million fall.

Building homes

So far this year, Visalia-based San Joaquin Homes is the busiest home builder in Kings County, permitting 115 new single family residences compared to second place Lennar Homes with 40 home starts, according to figures from Construction Monitor.

What’s this?

A decline in the interest rate on a 30-year mortgage has had a positive effect on several areas of the real estate market in the past week. “The 30-year fixed rate saw the largest weekly decline since 2020, falling 31 basis points to 5.43%,” said Joel Kan, Mortgage Bankers associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting. “The drop in rates led to increases in both refinance and purchase applications, but compared to a year ago, activity is still depressed.”

New pistachio plant slated for Westside

Western Fresno County already has had the big 100-silo Wonderful Pistachio plant and a big Assemi family plant (Touchstone) on the drawing board since 2018, a 49-silo project that has been challenged by Wonderful and delayed for four years in this highly competitive industry. Now the Stamoules family wants to join the party to build a large pistachio hulling, processing, and packing facility on 98 acres on the northwest corner of S. Newcomb and W. Muscat avenues approximately 9.7 mile south of Firebaugh. Once all phases are complete the plant would sport an impressive 60 silos. Stamoules Produce Co., Inc., based in Mendota, was launched in the 1920s as a cantaloupe grower when the Greek founder Spero Stamoules immigrated to the U.S. According to their application to the County, the proposed project would be implemented in four phases.

Visalia loses round in court to Sierra Club over ag mitigation

In a July 21 ruling Tulare County Superior Court Judge David Mathias ruled against the City of Visalia over their revised program to not require ag land mitigation from developers who want to bring farmland into the city for urban development. The previous policy, part of the General Plan, would have required developers – typically home builders – to pay into a fund that would set aside ag land elsewhere. The mitigation policy would apply to ag land in Tiers 11 and 111 – generally at the city’s urban edge. The city’s general plan, adopted in 2014, featured a three-tier system to encourage development first in Tier 1 before future subdivisions in Tier 11 and 111 were added.

The mitigation policy has been championed by those who want to discourage sprawl on the outskirts of the city and promote infill within the city. The fee developers would pay would help buy the mitigation land on a one-to-one basis. The judge did not rule on the merits of the ag mitigation policy but ruled against the city for not fully assessing the change in policy under CEQA that ended the Ag Mitigation Program (AMP). The ruling means that the ag mitigation program will stay for now. Visalia Mayor Steve Nelsen said he was “surprised – thinking the plan we made was ironclad.” Now he says he understands “this is not a minor fix and we need to know if this will delay us.”

Sierra Club attorney Babak Naficy commented “that the City of Visalia will be mandated to rescind their amended policy,” adding that the city consultant study on the plan was faulty. Court documents show that the Sierra Club and Central Valley Partnership challenged Visalia’s adopted amendment last August by filing a petition for writ of mandate, contending Visalia lacked substantial evidence to support removal of the AMP requirement; and that Visalia abused its discretion by preparing an “addendum” to a previously certified environmental impact report (EIR) for the policy change rather than a subsequent or supplemental EIR.

Judge Mathias agreed, saying ”The court finds use of an addendum in the circumstances of this case is not supported by substantial evidence in the record, and, therefore, grants the petition. The court’s ruling is confined to this limited issue, and specifically does not extend to the ultimate issue of whether the AMP requirement may or should be removed from the general plan.”

Seven Visalia developments impacted now

For home builders wanting to build in Tier 11, the effect is the same until the city goes through a full EIR to remove the AMP from the general plan – a lengthy process that could put off new approvals for months or even years and with an uncertain outcome. Who will be impacted? Mayor Nelsen says he understands there are seven Visalia housing projects ready to move into Tier 11 in the pipeline after several years of a boom in permit activity. “For those seven projects to move forward, we need to iron this out,” he said. Now the Tulare County judge has ruled the city action needs to be rescinded – putting in limbo new applications for subdivisions in Tier 11, some 1,500 acres inside the urban boundary. The need for Tier 11 land to build is clear because most of the Tier 1 land in the city has been subdivided.

Amazon Picks Central Valley Town for First Package Deliveries by Drone

Retailing giant Amazon announced Monday it picked a small town in the Central Valley near Stockton to be the first location for public drone deliveries. Deliveries to Lockeford, a town of 3,500 on State Route 88, would begin later this year. This would be the first time Amazon makes drone deliveries to the American public, and it follows several pilot projects by companies such as Walmart, United Parcel Service and FedEx. The online retailer said it was working with Federal Aviation Administration and local officials to secure permits. The drones will have the capability to fly beyond-line-of-sight and will be programmed to drop parcels in the backyards of customers. “Lockeford residents will play an important role in defining the future,” Amazon said. “Their feedback about Prime Air, with drones delivering packages in their backyards, will help us create a service that will safely scale to meet the needs of customers everywhere.” The company predicted that drone delivery “could one day become just as common as seeing an Amazon delivery van pull up outside your house.” Amazon made its first customer delivery by drone in the United Kingdom in 2016 and had touted its plans for drone delivery for years before that.

Bitwise Industries opens in downtown Merced, offering ‘life-changing opportunities in tech’

Bitwise Industries, a Central Valley technology company geared toward giving low-income residents an opportunity to get a tech-based education, opened the doors of its downtown Merced business hub this week. Bitwise Industries, which was founded in 2013 in Fresno, offers workspace for its members and leases out office suites. It also offers workforce training classes and tech consulting for local businesses. The new business hub is located at 1635 M St., on the corner of M Street and Main Street. “Bitwise Industries goes into underestimated communities and we build tech ecosystems using our three-pronged approach, which includes real estate — having a place and space — it also includes workforce training programs and tech consulting services,” said Norma Cardona, who is the vice president of Bitwise Industries in Merced.

The 6,500-square-foot office houses a co-working space that features tables and desks available for members. It’s designed for budding entrepreneurs and startup companies like a solo Realtor, online marketer or micro business owner. “People can come in, they’ll have a desk, they’ll have a chair, they’ll also have access to 20 free black and white copies and access to a conference room,” Cardona said. Memberships cost $40 per month with a student rate at $25 per month. The working space is set up for 40 members, but is currently being limited to about 20 to 25 members due to COVID-19 protocols. The working space is always open.

There are three office suites that are all currently leased out. There are two classrooms that hold 25 to 40 people. There are also three Bitwise suites, a conference room and a phone booth for private conversations. Bitwise Industries offers workforce training in Merced. Along with the office space, Bitwise also offers workforce training. “We offer life-changing opportunities in tech careers,” Cardona said. “We do that by offering evening classes or, as we call it, pre-apprenticeship classes that are stepping stones into a one year, full-time paid apprenticeship program, where we pay people to learn careers in tech.” The pre-apprenticeship classes are two nights per week and last six weeks. The classes offered include website for beginners, mobile website for beginners and JavaScript for beginners.

Students from these classes have the opportunity to earn one-year, paid internships with Bitwise Industries. The classes are designed to give people from marginalized communities — which includes people who formerly were incarcerated, formerly homeless, women, people from working-class families, the LGBTQ+ community and people of color — the opportunity to learn skills that could lead to tech jobs. Right now the classes are only offered remotely due to the pandemic. For more information on the workforce training, visit the Bitwise Industries website. Bitwise Industries also offers tech consulting for area businesses, including smaller restaurants that lacked websites and nonprofits that struggled to attract donors, according to Bitwise vice president Katherine Verducci. “Our tech consulting really helps up-level all the businesses that are in the area,” Verducci said.

Bitwise aims to create tech economy in Merced. Bitwise has opened hubs in places like Fresno and Bakersfield. Merced has similar characteristics and became a desired destination for the company. “We saw that there was high unemployment or underemployment, we saw that there was a high poverty rate,” Cardona said. “Actually one of the great things that we saw was UC Merced and the investment into downtown. So all those things are things we considered and we said, ‘we want to go into Merced.'” “We want to create that tech economy that is going to ignite transformations throughout the community,” Cardona added. “So people who are left out of opportunities, people who are surviving, people who are underemployed can really take advantage of these opportunities and get into a place of really thriving.”

Originally officials were eyeing an opening date in early 2021, but the pandemic delayed the opening. Cardona says Bitwise is thrilled to finally open its doors in downtown Merced. “We are so excited that we have this here now,” Cardona said. “A lot of people have been talking about it, a lot of people have heard about it, but it’s not until you see it in person, it’s not until you’re here that you’re really able to capture it and feel what Bitwise is all about.”

Faraday Future Unveils First Production-Intent FF 91 EV Manufactured at its Hanford, Calif. Plant

Hanford, Calif. (Feb. 23, 2022) – Faraday Future Intelligent Electric Inc. (“FF”) (NASDAQ: FFIE), a California-based global shared intelligent electric mobility ecosystem company, today unveiled the first production-intent FF 91 ultra-luxury EV. This marks the company’s manufacturing Milestone #4, pre-production builds for final engineering validation and certification, now referred to as production-intent vehicles. FF remains on schedule for the FF 91 start of production (“SOP”) in Q3 2022.

“Building the first production-intent vehicle at the Hanford plant is an important step towards reaching the start of production in Q3. This iteration is the closest to the FF 91 production model we’ve seen to-date,” said Matt Tall, vice president of manufacturing at FF. “The FF 91 is expected to be the first ultra-luxury EV to reach the market, with a unique driver and passenger experience.”The company will build more production-intent vehicles over the coming months for vehicle testing and validation, as well as final certification. Production-intent vehicles feature production-specification components.

In October 2021, FF laid out seven manufacturing milestones leading into the FF 91’s SOP. Milestone #1 – Installation of pilot equipment in the Hanford manufacturing plant’s pre-production build area; Milestone #2 – Securing a Certificate of Occupancy, clearing the path for the company’s pre-production builds; and Milestone #3 – Begin foundation construction for all remaining production areas including body, paint, warehouse and vehicle assembly. The first three milestones have been reached, and today’s event marks Milestone #4 – Pre-production builds for final engineering validation and certification.

With the completion of the first production-intent vehicle, FF is launching the “Born in California, Global DNA” multi-channel communication campaign along with our “ieMedals” co-creation campaign. The FF 91 is designed and built in California by FF Co-Creators and the company’s global employees, with technology from many top tier suppliers from across the globe. To commemorate the production achievements of the FF 91, the company launched the ieMedals campaign. With each production-intent vehicle manufactured in the months leading up to the FF 91’s SOP, FF will honor a different supplier of the FF 91 from around the globe with a unique ieMedal. Users on the FF Intelligent App can earn the supplier ieMedals for their individual accounts by completing specific tasks or fulfilling co-creation challenge requirements. The ieMedals are electronic awards added to users’ FFID accounts on the FF Intelligent App.