We’ve known Amazon aims to be our number one choice retailer for every product on the planet. To date, though, Amazon hasn’t been able to compete with brick and mortar retailers when it comes to delivery time: for certain items, it just doesn’t make sense to wait a day or more for Amazon to deliver, and so we head to the store to buy the product we need in person. In just a few years, though, Amazon, too, might play into our on-demand shopping needs. On 60 Minutes last night, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced a startling concept that will turn the online shopping industry on its head: 30-minute home delivery powered by autonomous, electric vehicles (otherwise known as drones). Welcome to Amazon Prime Air.
Instant Delivery to Populous Areas
It’s estimated that Amazon Prime Air vehicles, flying to locations within a 10-mile radius of Amazon’s fulfillment centers, will be able to deliver packages up to five pounds in weight. Such products make up 86% of the items Amazon delivers. So while the nature of the products being delivered, along with other factors like population density, fulfillment center locations and weather conditions, could affect the expansiveness and effectiveness of Amazon’s drone delivery program, the demand for such a service already exists. “It won’t work for everything,” Bezos said. “You know, we’re not gonna deliver kayaks or table saws this way.” But people ordering smaller items (say, a cell phone or a small package of groceries) for delivery to populous areas might soon be able to do all of their shopping from the comfort of their home.
Though Amazon Prime Air may be a long way from being implemented, Bezos is confident his idea will come to fruition. “These are effectively drones but there’s no reason that they can’t be used as delivery vehicles,” he told Charlie Rose on 60 Minutes.
Could Bezos’ Drone Fairytale Really Come True?
Pending rules formulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, which can arrive no earlier than 2015, Bezos estimates that in four or five years Amazon Prime Air could be up and running. But is his idea too far-fetched to truly be implemented? Several factors make an unmanned drone delivery operation complex to establish, not the least of which is safety. Will Amazon be able to engineer drones that do not accidentally fall on people’s heads or crash into people’s houses? Crime is also a concern, as Robert Hof points out in Forbes: with no human guarding the packages being delivered, what is stopping a criminal from attacking a drone and stealing the package (or the expensive, high-tech drone, delivering it, for that matter)? Finally, privacy advocates are already attacking Bezos’ plan, claiming that the cameras and other sensors the drones will use to deliver packages would infringe on our right to privacy.
Regardless of whether Amazon will be able to implement drones at all, let alone in only four or five years, Bezos’ 60 Minutes spot is undoubtedly great coverage for the company at the start of the holiday shopping season. Who doesn’t want to shop from the company promising cutting edge technology designed to make shopping even easier?
What do you think of Amazon Prime Air – is it feasible in the near future or is this talk all baloney?