Amazon Delivery Drones
Amazon gets a lot of coverage on this website for their Amazon Web Services, a fast-growing subset of the company that sells on-demand cloud-computing power to both large companies and private individuals. It has rapidly become the de-facto standard cloud computing services, and is expected to be worth close to $50 billion by 2015.
However, it was another potential Amazon service received a lot of coverage in late 2013, as the company announced ‘Amazon Prime Air’ – a delivery system to get packages from its online store straight to customers in under thirty minutes.
Here we look at five lesser-known facts about Amazon’s new delivery drones:
1. Weight Restrictions
The initial weight capacity of the drones will be limited to 2.25 kg (5 lbs). Nonetheless, 86 percent of Amazon’s current deliveries weigh under this limit and will be deliverable by the new service.
2. Delivery Process
The drones, called ‘octocopters’, are expected to be responsible for the whole delivery process with minimal human input. By using a highly specialised GPS system, the drones will remove the package from Amazon’s storage units, fly to the required location, and place the packages directly upon the doorsteps of the intended recipients. The delivery range is expected to be approximately 10 miles from the distribution centre.
With eight blades powering the octocopters, they will be still be functional if one of the blades breaks. The machine will weigh 5.5 kgs (12 lbs) with a battery weight of around 2 kgs (4.4 lbs).
4. Launch Date
Amazon hopes that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will give them clearance as early as 2015, but others are more doubtful. Patrick Egan, host and editor of suasnews.com (the industry-leading news site about ‘small unmanned aircraft systems’), says unmanned aerial aircraft will not have access to the US airspace until 2020 at the earliest.
5. Amazon Aren’t the First
A Chinese company, SF Express, has been trialing the use of drones to deliver packages in the south of the country since the middle of 2013.
Whilst bold in its ambitions, Amazon’s announcement has been ridiculed by many. There remain some fundamental stumbling blocks between the idea and a physical manifestation of the project. How would the drones cope with poor weather? How can Amazon ensure public safety? How can security of expensive items and the drones themselves be guaranteed? What will happen if more retailers want to use drones to deliver packages? While Amazon claims that “one day, Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today”, these questions all need satisfactory answers before their vision can become a reality.
What do you think? Is Amazon’s idea technology before its time? Was it a cynical pre-Christmas publicity ploy? Or will be see ours skies filled with flying octocopters before the turn of the decade?!
By Daniel Price