Amazon is all about expanding their delivery services. First, they brokered a deal with USPS for Sunday deliveries, and last night they announced a plan called Prime Air that would put the two-day Amazon Prime shipping to shame both in timeliness and in style. Flying drones would deliver Prime Air orders to customers in as little as 30 minutes.
Amazon’s plan follows in the footsteps of SF Express, a Chinese delivery company that has been conducting a pilot program (oh, the irony) for drone delivery. Like that company, Amazon wouldn’t try to deliver everything with the drones — heavy items would have to ship regularly. The electric drones would be more environmentally friendly than trucks, and the drones would find the users via GPS coordinates specified upon checkout. If you needed a package delivered to you at work, at the side of the road, or at a park, so long as your location is within the flight radius, a drone could fly up and drop it off. Now that’s service!
So, how soon can Amazon get these drones in the air? Well, it’ll be awhile, and not because the technology isn’t developed, but because FAA regulations for unmanned aerial vehicles haven’t been put in place yet. They’re working on guidelines that focus on public safety, so the vehicles will have to incorporate redundancies, failsafes, and features to prevent the drones from inopportune or dangerous landings, or mid-air swarming. By the time those commercial operations regulations are established, Amazon will be ready to go. Best-case scenario, we’re looking at 2015 for the drone fleets to begin deliveries.
Amazon says that, one day, Prime Air drones will be as commonplace as mail trucks. Dave Clark, Amazon’s VP, offers this “be careful what you wish for” promise: “Anything you want on Earth you’re gonna get from us. That’s where we’re headed.” Well, Amazon, you said it, and I hope you don’t come to regret it. In addition to flying drones, I’d also like some mailbots to deliver those items too big to be flown. And while we’re at it, if they could mix a cocktail to accompany the package, then you’d really be making wishes come true.