5 Things to Know About Amazon’s Drones

If Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos has his way, soon the CIA and the military won’t be the only organizations operating major drone programs. The program Bezos hopes to establish has nothing to do with warfare or surveillance, however: his company has announced its intention to begin a domestic drone delivery service with small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) delivering packages directly from warehouses to customers in a matter of minutes. Coming from most people, this plan would seem far-fetched at best and mildly insane at worst. Coming from Bezos, the head of a company that has already changed the paradigm of how we shop for and ship goods, it seems entirely plausible.

5.) The FAA Is Unlikely to Approve Commercial Drones Anytime Soon

The Federal Aviation Administration is working on a plan to allow domestic drones (AKA UAVs; AKA Unmanned Aircraft Systems) to flit about the airspace of American cities and suburbs, but the agency is quoting a five year timetable before its policies are in place. Given the complexities of the issue and given the pace at which the government tends to move, it is likely we will be waiting well more than half a decade before we see drones delivering Amazon orders (or anything else).

4.) Amazon Is Already Testing Their Drones

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos granted an in-depth interview to CBS’s 60 Minutes in which he revealed that his company has already been testing their drone delivery systems for some time now; they are well beyond the theoretical stage of the program. Given the immense investment of capital and time that establishing a corporate drone system requires, we can safely assume that the company has thoroughly studied the concept and finds it entirely feasible despite potential limitations of logistics, regulations and cost. Put simply: they wouldn’t try it if they weren’t confident it would work.

3.) Amazon Drone Deliveries Would Be Limited to Small Items

Don’t expect to see that that table saw or oversize suitcase you ordered delivered to your door via an Amazon drone. The systems that the company is developing would be limited to small packages of only five or so pounds each. And they would have a range of only ten or so miles, flying between an Amazon fulfillment house and the customer, so specialty and larger items would still have to arrive via the tried-and-true delivery system frequently known as a truck.

2.) Drones Would Cut Delivery Times Down to a Matter of Minutes

An Amazon unmanned aerial delivery vehicle could have an order delivered to a customer within less than an hour. The target delivery window is actually around thirty minutes. As purportedly nearly 90% of the items Amazon delivers are light enough for one of their “octocopters” to carry, that means most anything you want could be sitting next to the computer you used to order it before your cup of coffee had cooled.

1.) Drones Would Cement Amazon’s Place as Leader of the Retail Market

If Amazon can get its drone program launched successfully, they would be even farther out in front of other retail and fulfillment companies than they already are. Pioneering next day and then same-day delivery was one thing; partnering with the USPS for Sunday deliveries was another thing; same hour direct-to-buyer aerial delivery is a quantum leap farther. And though the idea almost “looks like science fiction. It’s not,” according to Jeff Bezos.

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