Amazon Wants To Deliver Your Stuff Using Drones. Seriously.

Amazon Wants To Deliver Your Stuff Using Drones. Seriously.
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It sounds like a late April Fool’s joke, but no. Amazon has really just announced a new service called Amazon Prime Air, where sometime in the next few years select customers can get stuff delivered straight to their doorstep via drone.

You can’t use it yet – Amazon is awaiting approval from the FAA – but they’re expecting the green light for unmanned delivery sometime in 2015. Then when final testing and R&D is done after that (the footage you see here is from a test flight), they hope to be able to deliver stuff to people’s homes “in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles”.


Amazon Prime Air[Amazon]


  • Hmmmm, so if i order a drone, will they have a drone deliver that drone or will it fly itself?
    *mind = blown*

  • Hmm, I’d like to order in a new console to be delivered by drone.
    *gang of dole bludgers drinking on the street sees the drone*
    “Hey look! Free booze money!” *steals drone*

    • or take it, dismantle the drone and sell it for parts…and then pretend to sell the xbox and instead give the hapless customer a box of towels. rinse and repeat and you’ve got enough booze money for the next coupe of months.

    • It means less drivers to hire, less vans to buy/licence/fuel/maintain/insure, and means deliveries won’t get stuck in traffic.

      • Drones aren’t anywhere near intelligent enough to operate themselves, let alone complex tasks like delivery. People already lose their shit when the postman doesn’t leave a parcel on their doorstep, but instead the street letter box.

        While the drones are unmanned, they’re still going to need a human operator behind the scenes. Even if you have one guy in a bunker handling the landing for dozens of these things with the rest of the trip on autopilot, it’s still not exactly the automated brave new world people think it is. Also, these aren’t fix-winged (long range) drones either, they’re going to need some sort of substation every handful of kilometers for maintenance, collection, and a regular warehouse with people attaching parcels. Then there’s the human (ie. dickhead) factor of people throwing stones at these things, etc.

        • You could utilise the GNAF boundary set combined with AusPost’s land area data-set to enable the machines to land in your backyard. Then you make sure that the drones fly within a certain sector of airspace that isn’t used for air traffic and that is high enough to dodge random projectiles.

          The machine itself looks like a standard quadcopter; maybe machine learned. Leaving the Amazon Prime Air Base and returning to it shouldn’t be a problem and I expect there is some sort of GPS/wireless communication/tracking going on to stop them colliding with each other and to enable customers/staff to track the shipments.

          The only real problems I foresee are the drones colliding with unexpected objects in their airspace; birds, radio towers and bullets or extreme weather conditions; hail, thunderstorms, strong winds and so forth.

          The former can be avoided by mapping the terrain effectively (CSIRO’s LiDAR) while the later leaves everything in the hands of weather forecasters…

        • The reason they aren’t long-range drones is they aren’t going to be going long range. They’re only making trips that take 30 mins, so it’d be more about getting stuff around the packed streets in the city.

          • There are no large Amazon warehouses in dense urban centres, just as there are no Costcos. There’s a Verge story on this, and apparently their effective range is 1-10 miles with the battery life dropping precipitously at that upper end, especially if carrying a 13 pound load.

            They’re still going to need some smaller substations acting as an intermediary for drone maintenance and accepting goods from a larger one. At which point they’re just using standard trucking and you’re definitely not going to be getting your order within the hour unless you live within minutes of an Amazon warehouse.

    • People were trying to set up something similar in Sydney for the delivery of textbooks. The company were of the view that it would be significantly cheaper, sometimes saving up to 90% of the cost of delivery by mail.

      • I thought it was debunked by a complete lack of feasibility.
        Aviation regulations and realistic range / flight time for a drone ruled it out.

        • One would think so.
          Adding weight to an aircraft is serious business. Especially for one that can’t generate passive lift via wings…

          • It’s not only autonomy which is the problem, it’s the regulations about how UAVs are flown which rules it out for Australia (and most countries in the world, including USA in fact): civilian UAVs must be operated within line of sight of the operator and below 100m of altitude – there must be pilot looking directly at the drone at all time (and FPV doesn’t count). So there goes your automated delivery.

            If anything, regulations are expecting to get tougher in the near future, including in the US. So I’d like to know how Amazon is supposedly waiting for FAA approval by 2015 – not going to happen. Either something is highly inaccurate in this article, or Amazon is just surfing on the free attention while they know very well that their concept cannot work.

          • I believe (unless something changed) it’s because US Congress passed a bill last year to permit wider use of drones for commercial and governmental purposes. The FAA were expected/ required to have set up some sort of framework by 2015. Whether they will actually be able to build a comprehensive set of rules in that time seems unlikely though.

    • Yeah. I’m struggling to see how they’re going to use this to beat the US Postal Service. Drones are cool and all but I can’t see one going coast to coast with a shoebox being more cots effective. Perhaps in rural situations where it’s easier to go to a depot and drone it the rest of the way in a straight line.

      • It would only work if it was from regional distribution centres, you couldn’t have them all flying from one location right around the country.

  • There are just SO many reasons why I can’t see this happening… At all.

    It being knocked down is the obvious one.

  • Think of all the money they’ll save on employing deliverymen!
    …most of which will be spent on drone maintenance guys.

  • Can’t wait for international amazon drones to start dropping stuff off at work. Hmm…. maybe I could install a drop cage on the roof of my house or back yard…

    ….I order from amazon too much!

  • This sounds incredible to me. Why be negative about something like this? It sounds like the way of the future. Obviously there will be challenges to overcome (flight risks, people attacking the drones, damages) but being able to receive something via a drone within the hour sure as hell beats waiting 3+ days for a mailman/courier. This has massive potential.

    • It’s not negativity, it’s reality. Aside from the logistical issues I mentioned above, you also have the human factor, weather, etc. that make this completely unfeasible. Until we get more robust, intelligent drones, it won’t be cost-efficient, and you’re also going to require amending the civil aviation authority, one of the most regulated branches of the government.

      We’ve always known that using your Game Boy on a plane was harmless, but it took the FAA decades to get around to greenlighting electronic use because 1) people are still touchy about airspace and 2) bureaucracy. Now consider that Australia hasn’t even begun on that path yet and the drone issue is an even bigger can of worms.

      It sounds like the future, but so does a jetpack and I’m not holding my breath for that. Also, chances are, you’re not getting your item delivered in ‘the hour’ unless you live within minutes of a major Amazon warehouse (drones are slow). Plus, only major Amazon warehouses stock anything close to what is offered on their page (not to mention ‘Fulfilled By Amazon’ external sellers) and there are only a precious handful of such sites in the continental United States, to say nothing of Australia.

      • People who think new technology is and should always be incredibly versatile and openly available, not to mention foolproof right off the bat never ceases to amaze me.

        It’s a step in the right direction. Nothing more. It’s about innovating in a field which for hundreds of years has essentially been the same; using roads to deliver goods. I’m not saying it will work 100% right straight away, that is clearly years away, but to dismiss this tech as stupid just because it’s not concrete to begin with is small minded.

        • I never said anything of the sort. I want to temper the fawning and cooing that comes with every one of these stories. It’s not feasible now, and it won’t be feasible in the next few years (Amazon’s supposed launch window), so for all intents and purposes, it’s a nonsense story.

          I’m not a luddite, I’m intensely interested in emerging technologies like 3D printing or drones and I have no doubt these things will reach some critical mass. But not now. Not anywhere close to now. It’s easy but incorrect to compare doubters like me to myopic critics of airplanes or electricity but it’s not even remotely analogous. All the literature is a click away and unless Jeff Bezos is hoarding the blueprints to a perpetual motion machine or some ground-breaking new battery technology, I doubt the feasibility of this plan. His aspirations are praiseworthy but unrealistic.

  • haha can imagine people creating drones that would intercept these amazon drones.
    in the end you would get Police Drones that would escort the Amazon Drones.

    There will be a Jail for Drones
    maybe even a Judge Drone.

    Will be a wee little city in the sky 😀

  • There was talk about something similar to this, except it was in regards to take-away food rather than amazon items. Maybe food is a better starting place to see how it flies.

  • I foresee a fleet of illegal ‘pirate’ drones.

    Bigger more powerful drones that seek out, capture and deliver their prey off to be scrapped for parts and their cargo sold off on the black market.

    I think ive been watching too much SciFi… Either that or Americans just shooting them down.

    • But what about if Amazon makes even bigger more powerful anti pirate drones? Huh? Huh? Huh? What then? 😛

  • Awesome idea, but I’m betting there’ll be plenty of issues to go with such a new technology being adopted in potentially enormous numbers. Much better than the sushi drones, etc. that have basically no long-term gain

  • Maybe these will be coming with 360 degree cameras and a GPS, so that if anything goes wrong they will likely figure out who the perp was.

    Or if a drone disappears, some other drones start turning up to the last known GPS spot and start bombing the place.

  • ‘Select customers’ = One or two very wealthy areas of the US. The Hamptons e.t.c. where there would be much less chance of one being shot out of the sky or stolen on the ground.

    Plus I reckon you would need a big property or yard for it to land in. No chance in an apartment in the city.

    Cool Idea though although it will never be offered as a service here in Australia. We don’t have Amazon or even Netflix yet. Nobody wants our money it seems.

    • We do actually have Amazon, as of a few weeks back. There’s not much on it yet, besides Ebooks, but presumably they’ll stuck up properly in the near future.

  • Then, is the human future, inevitably, the direct and full-time relation with an intelligent machine? ¿A sort of tech-priest who interferes between God and mankind, between nature and human beings and between human beings themselves? That is, will a machine be the whole environment, a virtual playground? If so, will human beings return to this new technological mother womb, inside mechanical egg-dresses? However, ¿what is the relationship in which a machine cannot take part or channel at all? ¿Why won’t the future automatons be alive? ¿What is the fundamental difference between a peculiar and mechanical structure that imitates life and life itself? Is there any, virtual or real? Can materialistic and mechanical points of view be overcome? Anyway, if machines take over all human activity, including art and science, ¿what will happen to the organic body and its conditioned-to-work-and-think brain? Surely, will it decay? Is coexistence possible while people is fighting for jobs and resources: competition, nations, and so on? If one wants to go on questioning, there is more like that in a highly recommended and different book, take a look in a sample in If you don’t feel like a humble machine by doing it

  • Screw amazon anyway. Any time I order a book from Amazon I need to wait at least a month and a half for delivery every time.

  • This is simply an Amazon PR stunt. They got some bad press with a tell all book recently and have released this info to distract the public. Not to mention that the story aired on 60minutes on the day before Cyber Monday. Gotta hand it to them, they are crafty bastards.

    As for the drone issue. There’s no way in hell this will be anything but a tiny side project in 2015. The FFA is yet to introduce any laws regarding commercial civilian drones. They probably won’t for quite some time.

    Even if they did, you still have the problems of cost, battery life, weight restrictions, range restrictions, obstacle and traffic avoidance and weather problems.
    There’s lots of great research being done with drones, but this real world application isn’t even on the horizon yet. There’s still just too many problems to overcome.

    I’m all for cutting edge technology like this, I’ve even built my own quad, but being an aerospace engineer and involved in validation, safety, regulation and risk management, I can tell you this isn’t going to happen any time soon.

    As a small test or novelty project… sure. But I doubt we’ll see anything remotely resembling Amazon Prime Air at that scale for at least 10 years. Perhaps sooner if there is some major breakthrough in battery technology.

  • Next, on the Onion. “Mr. Hacker hits the jackpot in home delivered goods. Meanwhile Amazon Customer Support, says, resetting your router and clearing your browsers cache should fix the problem.”

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