Amazon CEO, Jeffrey P. Bezos, revealed his plans for the company to begin delivering packages by drones within the next five years. The company hopes to be able to deliver packages with automated drones to customers within 30 minutes of placing their orders.
Bezos confirmed that Amazon already has the technology they need and has already flown their prototype unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV. The Amazon UAV, dubbed “Octocopter” is said to be capable of carrying a package of up to 5 lbs. Amazon says that 86 percent of their deliveries would be able to be delivered via their Octocopters. Amazon has dubbed their future drone fleet delivery system “Prime Air.”
The Federal Aviation Administration released a report in November that unveils details of an aviation road-map for UAVs. The 74-page report was preceded and mandated by the “FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.” The law and report are the government’s first steps in governing the use of UAVs for reasons matching Amazon’s plans.
Some regulations contained within the report will need to be addressed by Amazon before they can execute their plan safely and legally. One such detail they will need to address is that their system design will need to involve a human to control the flight system. Amazon’s plans outlined by Jeffrey P. Bezos were said to be “autonomous drones,” but he didn’t go into detail on their planned infrastructure or how humans would be involved in their flight system. Amazon is hoping that the new FAA rules will be ready by 2015.
When Jeffrey P. Bezos revealed the plans of Prime Air it didn’t come as any surprise to those that follow Amazon’s investments. Last year they acquired Kiva Systems which added robotics and automation expertise to Amazon’s profile. These experts were likely the key to Amazon launching their drone prototype.
Bezos said that Amazon’s next step is to ensure they build-in reliability and redundancy into their Prime Air delivery system. Amazon will have to make sure that the drones do not injure anybody within the vicinity of the air delivery or the drone’s path to and from their Octocopter bases.
Amazon recently released a video demonstrating their proposed Prime Air service on the company’s YouTube channel. The video shows a customer ordering a product online and selecting Prime Air as the method of delivery. An Amazon employee then packages the order in a plastic box that travels on a conveyor system to the drone. The plastic box is then picked up by the Octocopter and flown directly to its final destination where it is then dropped a few feet from the customer’s front door.
Amazon has garnered a lot of press and exposure for their video on TV, news, social media and the internet. Bezos first announced Amazon’s plans on Sunday night in an interview with Charlie Rose on CBS’s show, “60 Minutes.” The network used “teasers” during their Sunday football games to boost the number of viewers of their popular show. Since publishing their Prime Air demo it has generated more than 6.1 million views to date and growing quickly.
If the plans revealed by Jeffrey P. Bezos are successful and with the FAA’s approval in place, Amazon’s new Prime Air may have a fleet of drones flying packages within 10 miles of their bases possibly as early as 2015. Prime Air hopes to lower the bottom line of shipping costs for Amazon in the near future.
By Brent Matsalla