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Amazon Reveals "Prime Air", Their Plans For 30-minute Deliveries By Drone 397

Posted by samzenpus
from the amazon-air dept.
Z80xxc! writes "Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed during a CBS 60 Minutes interview that the company is working on a service called 'Prime Air' to deliver packages by autonomous octocopter drones within 30 minutes of hitting the 'buy' button. The plan still requires more testing and FAA approval, but Bezos predicts it'll be available to the public in the next 4-5 years. With a lot of backlash against drones, and some towns even offering bounties to shoot them down, will this technology ever take off, or is this just another one of Amazon's eccentric CEO's fantastical flight ideas?"
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Amazon Reveals "Prime Air", Their Plans For 30-minute Deliveries By Drone

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  • Hmmmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Monday December 02, 2013 @09:10AM (#45573559)
    1. This technology
    2.Silk Road 2
    4. PROFIT!
  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Monday December 02, 2013 @09:12AM (#45573569)

    It's possible Bezos really means it, but my guess is that two things are behind it:

    1. Using the current drone hype to help position Amazon as exciting/technological/futuristic, rather than just a boring logistics company that owns warehouses and brown cardboard boxes. With Google working on self-driving cars, and Elon Musk proposing a hyperloop and working on a reusable rocket, Amazon might want to join the futurology game. Otherwise they risk being seen as a low-margin but very efficient (and high-volume) mass retailer, the online version of Wal-Mart.

    2. Provide some leverage in negotiations with the delivery and courier companies they depend on by threatening to bypass them. Amazon may want at least a halfway credible alternative to companies like UPS/Fedex when negotiating rates, something to hang over their head as "if you piss us off enough, we're really going to do it, we're going to just deliver everything with drones".

  • Hacker's delight (Score:4, Interesting)

    by greichert (464285) on Monday December 02, 2013 @09:20AM (#45573607)
    How long till people start stealing the drones as they see one landing (by throwing a net on them for instance) and hack the firmware so they have their own drone?
  • Re:Crime? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vanderhoth (1582661) on Monday December 02, 2013 @09:22AM (#45573617)
    I had the same thought until I realized my wife's Xmas order was left on our front step last week by Canada Post. Normally they just leave a door hanger telling us where and when we can pick up the package.

    The drone would be a neat idea if I could have it drop the package in the backyard instead of out front. 30-60 minutes isn't really a bad amount of time to wait for a delivery, on par with Pizza. The major issue being you'd have to be near a deployment center, I imagine the only Amazon deployment centers in Canada are in Toronto and Ottawa.
  • Suggestion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Monday December 02, 2013 @09:25AM (#45573633) Homepage

    Mount a camera on the drone and let me watch my package flying over the landscape via the "Track my package" option.

  • Re:Crime? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by N1AK (864906) on Monday December 02, 2013 @09:35AM (#45573675) Homepage
    There have been documented cases of people following UPS etc vans and collecting the things they drop off on porches. Given that the person delivering the package can't magically get it inside the house unless it fits through the letterbox or I'm there their security isn't exactly amazing. A drone could drop the parcel in my rear garden without me having to leave my gate unlocked; furthermore it wouldn't be hard to have some kind of coded access box for them to use, or on a simpler level just deliver when they know I'm home so I can accept the item.

    I honestly think you'd see a decimation of manual delivery jobs in the UK within less than 2 years of drone style delivery being legalised and viably regulated. It'll be cheaper, faster and offer more convenient delivery times without huge fees; there's basically nothing that manual delivery offers to remotely make up for that.
  • Re:Crime? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pspahn (1175617) on Monday December 02, 2013 @09:55AM (#45573809)
    UPS once left an order under some shrubs in the front that I didn't notice until several months later and a replacement delivery sent. Ended up doubling the order for free (too bad it was just a pair of nice winter socks, though you can never have too many).
  • Re:Stupid media bait (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 02, 2013 @10:13AM (#45573925)

    Anyone who has any idea on the capabilities of octocopters can immediately see that this idea is DOA.

    That list would include you. You have no idea what you are talking about.

    There are regular payload FPV flights currently out to over 3 miles.

    There are heavy lift competitions with multicopters that can lift a human being. 2 kg is nothing even for a small copter.

    Good weather toys? Your comment on this proves you have no experience with multicopters. In fact multicopters handle wind better than any other small craft.

    Octocopters are relatively robust and can still fly with multiple motor losses (although with cargo would be a problem). The technology is rapidly advancing though. I have over 1000 flights on my quadcopter with no maintenance and not a single fault.

  • by alexander_686 (957440) on Monday December 02, 2013 @10:25AM (#45574015)

    I don’t think it is either of those.

    1. Might be right but it does not explain why Bezos is doing it now. Announcing a pie in the sky moon shot is not going to do anything about its perception today. It won’t move stock prices (or, if it does, it will be down) and it won’t change from whom I order today. Yeah, it will have a little halo effect, but not much.

    2. Amazon already has a choice between at least 3 different shippers fighting for their business. That a much more effective that a alternative delivery method which may pop up in 4 years’ time. More likely 10.

    I am going with a moon shot. A high risk, high reward kind of thing. Amazon has the cash to indulge in these types of activities. Plus we know Bezos likes robots. Amazon bought a pick and pack robot company about 2 years ago.

  • Re:Hacker's delight (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Inda (580031) <> on Monday December 02, 2013 @10:29AM (#45574043) Journal
    The children near me destroy shopping trollies just for the one-pound coin held within the locking mechanism. That coin will buy 2.5 cigarettes.

    They'd love to take a hammer and screwdriver to a drone... and then I'd buy it off them.
  • Re:Stupid media bait (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Junta (36770) on Monday December 02, 2013 @11:00AM (#45574217)

    There are regular payload FPV flights currently out to over 3 miles.

    I assume you meant 30 miles (and the record is currently just shy of 35 miles), 3 miles would be rather sad. That is 30 miles being in the ballpark of record setting RC FPV without payload.

    Amazon is suggesting a 10 mile range for their design currently.

    now to take the amazon of today and make a technology with a 10 mile range anything more than a 'gee-whiz' factor for urban areas would require a pretty dramatic change. When people think warehouse-level stock with insane coverage, they think 'wal-mart'. The nearest walmart to my parents house is 18 miles as the crow flies. One source claimed the average distance to a wal-mart from average house in US was 30 miles (which I think is a bit far but couldn't find quality data in short notice). Amazon would need a real-estate footprint on the order of 9 times as much as wal-mart to cover the market. Even assuming Amazon only has ambitions to service urban areas, they are still looking at a footprint roughly on the order of wal-mart. Amazon has been eating into brick and mortar in no small part due to having so low a footprint, not having to stock everything everywhere, and so on and so fourth. If Amazon gets some regulatory precedents set for this to happen, Wal-Mart can swoop in and implement it in pretty short order.

  • Re:Hacker's delight (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) on Monday December 02, 2013 @03:52PM (#45577207) Homepage
    Actually they do since most criminals are just looking for an easy target and are about as dumb as a brick (otherwise they would have real jobs). The U-Haul and self storage place I worked at had a life size cardboard cutout of the Maytag Repair Man up in the second floor windows [] of the place so it always looked like there was a security guard in there. The windows were facing the road and customers commented that it was nice that we had a security guard. I imagine that it fooled most stupid criminals as well.

A consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, pockets the watch, and sends you a bill for it.