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After Hours

Amazon Drones Promise 30-Minute Delivery

Amazon Drones Promise 30-Minute Delivery
December 2, 2013 10:27AM

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While its drones might not be able to deliver heavier items, Amazon could use them to enter new markets, such as produce. Amazon's drones could even deliver hot food, using the old Domino's delivery benchmark to deliver within half an hour -- although judging by the size of the box in the video it would have to be a personal or pre-sliced pizza.

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Delivering overnight -- or even on Sundays -- isn’t quite fast enough for Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. The e-commerce pioneer is now on a mission to deliver books and other goods in 30 minutes or less. The strategy relies on drones.

Dubbed Prime Air, Amazon has been working on the concept in its R&D lab. Although the company admits putting Prime Air into commercial use will take “some number of years” as it advances the technology and waits for the necessary FAA rules and regulations, Bezos is clearly betting on the future with what he calls octocopters.

“These are effectively drones but there’s no reason that they can’t be used as delivery vehicles . . . ” Bezos told CBS News. “This is early. This is still . . . years away. It drops the package. You come and get your package. And we can do half-hour delivery.”

It’s Not Science Fiction

Bezos admits the drone delivery model looks like science fiction but he assures consumers it’s real. The company even has a YouTube video demonstrating the concept. Amazon expects the technology to be commercially viable by the time the FAA settles on rules for unmanned aerial vehicles -- and those rules are in the works.

Amazon said the FAA is working on an approach for unmanned aerial vehicles that will prioritize public safety. Safety will also be the company’s top priority, and its vehicles will be built with multiple redundancies and designed to commercial aviation standards.

Amazon hopes the FAA’s rules will be in place as early as 2015. The company is certain that one day Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as mail trucks on the road are today.

Bezos told CBS News the drones could carry objects of up to five pounds, which covers 86 percent of what the company delivers. He explained, “So, in urban areas, you could actually cover very significant portions of the population.”

Amazon’s Prime Opportunity

We caught up with Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, to get his take on the news. He told us Bezos is trying to temper the excitement around the potential of drones with the idea that FAA regulations need to be a reality before Prime Air could launch.

“This is not necessarily going to work in all situations. For example, apartment buildings may be difficult. But it certainly reinforces that Amazon’s desire to minimize the disadvantages of online shopping versus brick and mortar,” Rubin said.

He points out the great advantage of brick-and-mortar retailers: shoppers get their merchandise immediately. Amazon has tried to bridge that gap by working with the U.S. Postal Service to offer Sunday delivery. Drones would be a bigger leap toward immediacy, Rubin said, especially considering the time it takes for consumers to travel back and forth to the store.

“What Amazon might give up in terms of larger, heavier items they might make up for in terms of new markets to enter, such as produce,” Rubin said. “They could have something fresh, perhaps even hot food, using the old Domino's delivery benchmark to deliver within half an hour -- although at least judging by the size of the box in the video it would probably have to be a personal pizza or pre-sliced perhaps.”

Tell Us What You Think
Comment:

Name:

richard:

Posted: 2013-12-02 @ 9:44pm PT
But Al Gore is going to invent it by then. Stupidest idea I ever heard of, like inventing annoying insects large enough to do bodily injury. It would give fresh vulgarity to Bob Dylan's lines "exchanging all precious gifts -- you'd better take your diamond ring--you'd better pawn it babe."



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