October 31, 2014

Amazon Drones Could Deliver Packages by Air

amazon delivery drones

It looks like something out of a science fiction movie. But Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos seemed quite serious when he told 60 Minutes recently the company is working on the idea of air delivering packages by drone.

The initiative is being called Amazon Air and would involve delivery by flying robotic vehicles to customers within 10 miles of an Amazon warehouse. The time from placement of an order to delivery by the drone in these areas might be just 30 minutes, Bezos speculates.

Amazon recently released a video to better demonstrate how the drone delivery system might work:

Realistically, however, implementation could take three to five years, and that’s just to get FAA approval. There may be other problems, too, in densely populated cities like Washington D.C. where no-fly zones are currently in place.

Brendan Schulman, special counsel at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP told the Associated Press:

The technology has moved forward faster than the law has kept pace.

But the real impact will be on carriers like UPS and FedEx. These are the companies with the most to lose in the short-term as a result of Amazon’s current plan, reports Chris Ciaccia of The Street.

On 60 minutes, Bezos speculated the devices could handle about 85 percent of the packages Amazon delivers.

Those are packages that potentially would have been sent by the two ground carriers otherwise. But the new system would allow Amazon to speed up delivery and significantly cut costs.

The plan could also be bad news for small businesses seeking to compete with Amazon in the online selling arena. It means most of these businesses will be unable to match Amazon’s delivery time or low costs because they are still forced to ship through more traditional carriers.

Image: Amazon

11 Comments ▼

Shawn Hessinger - Editor


Shawn Hessinger Shawn Hessinger is the Editor for Small Business Trends. He is a journalist and social media networker with more than a decade of experience in the traditional newspaper business before moving to the digital world. He was the former community manager of BizSugar and the former community editor at AllAnalytics, a site dedicated to professionals in the business intelligence and analytics community.

11 Reactions

  1. To be honest, that’s kind of creepy. Imagine seeing a flying object delivering a package to your home. Also, since it cannot react, what if someone throws a rock at it and the package fell to the ground? It will not be able to retrieve it.

    • My thoughts exactly, Aira — creepy. It’s all too easy to attach cameras to drones, with a loss of what little privacy we have left.

      Between the sweetheart deal with the Post Office, and Jeff Bezos in charge of the Washington Post newspaper (and its influence in Washington, DC), and now drones… I’m not sure I like the direction that Amazon is heading toward.

  2. Aira and Anita,
    Thanks for your comments. Leaving the creepy factor to one side for a moment, it seems as if a clear need exists to develop cheaper and quicker delivery options for shippers other than just Amazon. It’s a problem (and an opportunity) some entrepreneur or third party carrier should be working on right now. Clearly it’s a solution that small businesses at least would be grateful to have.

  3. OK, when I first read the title and saw the image, I laughed, because I don’t know, I laughed! And I thought whatever next? Pigeons?

    I watched the video, and you know what, it’s achievable, but I have a lot of buts. For example, how green is this idea? And what if no-one’s home – will the drone still deliver or will it sense no-one’s home? What if a drone malfunctions and falls on someone or property?

  4. It wouldn’t be out of character for Jeff to use this as a scare tactic to coerce FedEx, UPS, and USPS to give Amazon lower shipping rates.

    As far as the practicality factor, there are millions of packages delivered inside apartment buildings, schools, and office buildings. Many times, a package needs to be delivered to just the right person in the building. FedEx doesn’t drop a package 10 feet from the front door of a corporation. They deliver it to the Receiving department, inside the building.

    Then you have the problem of theft. If someone needs something that fast, it’s probably valuable. What if it’s delivered to the wrong house? What about the plastic yellow box–is that going to be sent back somehow?

    Overall, I don’t think it’s a viable idea at this stage.

    • I agree that it’s not very practical. But I’ve been wrong before…. When you think of it, Bezos’s original idea for Amazon was pretty “out there” when he first conceived of it in the 1990s. Doesn’t seem farfetched today, but no one had ever done what they envisioned, back then.

  5. Doesn’t really seem as if Amazon is serious about taking this to a logical end. Its more of vaporware for me at this point. The drones can just drop it outside a office or residential complex and not actually have it delivered to the right person or the receiving department.

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