Amazon Prime Air

Amazon recently announced they intend to use drones to speed delivery of customer packages to their front door. The service, in testing phase currently, is to be called Amazon Prime Air. While I have no doubt they really are testing a system like this, for now it seems more like a publicity stunt. They are just the latest in a line of companies announcing drone deliveries of everything from pizza to textbooks. I would not be surprised to see UPS, FedEx, DHL, and other shipping firms start their own testing programs.

While I think the concept is interesting, regulations will obviously need to be worked out first, and reliable systems with proven track records will have to be developed.

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  • T3

    Just wrote a paper to debunk Prime Air myths, go around patents, demonstrate prior art where applicable and proposed cleaner legal solution for airspace. Got fed up being regular worker at Amazon just because they hire in Poland only for lowest wages, ignoring job applications for Prime Air program. My paper is here:

  • My money is on Lithium-Air.

    Commercial product projection is right in line with Amazons deployment schedule.

    5 to 7 years out and the same power density as gas.

  • Shyam, I remain ever hopeful that one of these teased battery revolutions will materialize, but I'm not holding my breath.  Yours would be I think the 19th battery revolution I've heard about, and I'm still waiting.

  • Great, Ill start advertising my Octa with 2h30 flight time (depending on batteries).

  • @John, Coming soon, a battery technology which offers five times greater flight time than LIPO or even Li-ion can offer, for that matter. It is coming, probably may take 8-9 months from now. AFAI can tell, details are not revealed yet since that would mean businesses bloom in no time.

    Something for all but is kept a secret in deep laboratories ;)

  • Im surprised at how closed minded some of the responses are to this, especially on a site like this which is all about innovation.

    1)This type of delivery would only be for the fairly small number of people who are both Amazon Prime subscribers and live close to a distribution center. These are the same minority that can get same day delivery now.

    2) Theres no way these would be piloted by humans. Amazon is trying to automate as much of their distribution network as possible.

    3) The drones will have to navigate obstacles safely but I seriously doubt theyd send one out for a delivery to just any address. Theyre already calling it a Prime service which means you have to be a paying member. I would expect them to require a special landing pad for Prime Air deliveries that is completely clear of obstructions. Maybe even add some type of naviation beacon and/or visual targeting to ensure accurate navigation. If you can do that you can program a simple up, over, and down flight pattern.

    4) The biggest issue I see with this is that battery technology is not at a point yet where multicopters can carry a useful payload over a useful round trip distance and be recharged in a reasonable amount of time.

  • Helistorm,I see your stick of gum and raise you two aspirins!  I am running actual tests delivering two aspirins with my Traxxass micro-quad (the one, you'll recall, that has hauled a tiny camera, flotation landing gear, and a teensy skateboard). Deliveries at this time are only to my wife, as she can't sue me. Am expecting a cease-and-desist order anytime now from the FDA, never mind the FAA. By the way, I herewith claim the World Record, Francis, for aspirin transport by nano-quad.

    +1 for Gary's dismemberment of Amazon's publicity stunt. And while it may be good publicity for general UAV PR, it's actually a little offensive, in that it is nothing whatsoever other than a pure publicity stunt and as such takes something from everyone who has been developing multicopters without giving anything back.

    As for Hugues' comments about "underestimating visionaries," don't underestimate 10,000 monkeys with typewriters either. In this case, the vision is publicity (it worked) and for some lucky UAV builder a fat client. End of story.

    And John, no, "Amazon" has always been there, in one form and name or another. There is not a single novel thing about it, other than scale. Traders have operated in exactly the same manner for thousands of years. Now and then someone figures out how to play it really hard and well. Look into the Chinese export trade of the 16th century, or at Venice, or Hamburg, etc. etc.and at their logistics, and Amazon won't seem so awesome.  

  • Hi Bill, Amazon has 14 fulfillment centers in the United States many of them located in sparsely populated areas because of the cheap real estate, 500 miles is sort of an average figure for how far away they are. There are no neghborhood Amazon stores, so practical home delivery via multicopter will never happen for at least 90 percent of the US population (probably more like 99%).

    And as for the lawnmower thing, yes and those are on the ground in your neighbors yard with guards and their blades on the ground.

    Not flying over your yard at this very moment, Oops, don't look up.

  • MR60

    Remember IBM in the eighties who said personal computers would not be a market and that nobody would have a PC home? Makes me think of some reactions here... I bet all technical limits and regulatory burden will be lifted within the next 5 to 10 years at the current rate of progress.

  • Moderator

    I don't trust any news story until I've seen the Taiwanese Animators' report!

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