Amazon Prime Air: Unmanned drones to ship packages in 30 minutes or less

This is a discussion on Amazon Prime Air: Unmanned drones to ship packages in 30 minutes or less within the Off-Topic forums, part of the Apple Forums category; Amazon on Sunday unveiled a bold new shipping initiative during CBS‘s popular TV show “60 Minutes:” Amazon Prime Air, which aims to ship packages to ...

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    Amazon Prime Air: Unmanned drones to ship packages in 30 minutes or less



    Amazon on Sunday unveiled a bold new shipping initiative during CBS‘s popular TV show “60 Minutes:” Amazon Prime Air, which aims to ship packages to your door via air in 30 minutes or less from the time you place the order. Interestingly, these are completely autonomous drones, that don’t require pilots watching over them, as some of the other drones out there do. Instead, they rely solely on the preprogrammed GPS coordinates to ship packages and return to base. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos said during the interview with Charlie Rose that the drones will be able to carry up to 5 pounds in plastic boxes, which covers over 86% of the products sold by the giant retailer.

    The drone is an octa-copter that relies solely on electric power to run and can travel around 10 miles to reach its destination. Furthermore, Bezos said that it can still operate in case one of the eight engines fails, and added that security is very important for the company, as these flying devices will only land at their specified destination.







    Amazon Prime Air will not be available to buyers immediately, as Bezos expects it to receive FAA approval at some point in 2015 at the earliest. Pricing details have not been specified for the Amazon Prime Air service yet.

    On a different note, Bezos dodged a question during the interview regarding a rumored future Amazon product, the set-top box it’s said to launch in the coming months. As for the other rumored new Amazon products, the first Amazon smartphones, they were not mentioned during the interview.

    In addition to the test flight of an Amazon drone in the video above, here are more video snippets from CBS’s “60 Minutes” show that aired the news about Amazon’s new approach to fast package delivery.





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    What’s really behind Amazon’s delivery drone trial balloon?



    Let’s face it: The chances that the federal government will let Amazon fly delivery drones around in densely populated areas by the end of 2015 are basically slim to none. So why did Amazon bother putting on a big show about its delivery drones for CBS’s 60 Minutes earlier this week? Wired’s Marcus Wohlsen and Forbes contributor Will Burns each suggest two plausible explanations that make Amazon look either very cynical or merely somewhat cynical.

    First, Wohlsen’s very cynical explanation: Amazon just wanted to get good press ahead of the holiday shopping season. That Amazon chose to open up on its drone delivery program on the night before Cyber Monday should of course raise eyebrows and it’s clear that the company doesn’t mind having everyone know that it’s supposedly working on the world’s most cutting-edge package delivery system. This explanation is the simplest to understand and is certainly the most plausible since Amazon essentially got itself a free infomercial on America’s most popular TV news magazine.

    Burns’ explanation is somewhat less cynical and somewhat more nuanced. He thinks that Bezos and company are essentially floating a trial balloon to see how the general public responds and to then figure out the public relations challenges that Amazon will face if it ever really does decide to deploy a fleet of unnamed aerial drones for package delivery.

    Essentially, Burns thinks Amazon knows that drones are a hard sell, largely because they’ve been used primarily as either killing machines or surveillance vehicles. Since nobody likes the thought of having a flying kill-bot lobbing cruise missiles in their neighborhood, Amazon will have to do some work to show people the kinder, gentler side of drones.

    “What Bezos has done here that is so genius from a marketing standpoint is this: he’s started the debate now, before he’s even perfected the octocopter technology and before it’s even legal, so that the public will start the long process of self-normalizing the concept of an octocopter in the first place,” Burns writes. “He knows that the technology is not only disruptive, but so visibly disruptive that waiting for the technology to be ready and launching an expensive advertising blitz making flat promises won’t cut it. Bezos knows it will take time, not advertising, to normalize this disruption.”





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    Amazon’s delivery drone dream may come true after all




    The U.S. government this week approved unmanned aircraft tests for six states of the 24 that wanted to be in the program, Reuters reports, with drone testing expected to cover a variety of uses, including Amazon’s proposed Prime Air shipping solution. The FAA’s chosen sites for drone tests include Alaska, New York, North Dakota, Texas, North Carolina and Virginia. Of those, North Dakota has already contacted Amazon to propose testing.

    “We said: ‘We’d love to help you bring your vision to fruition,’” Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Authority director Bob Becklund said about the conversation he had with the company, “They said: ‘We’ll keep your number on file,’” he added.

    Global spending on drones is expected to double to $11.6 billion by 2013, according to the Teal Group research firm, while The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates that the drone business could create more than 100,000 jobs and contribute more than $80 billion to the U.S. economy over ten years.

    However, it’s not going to be smooth flying for Amazon and for anyone interested in developing their U.S. drones program, as there are several privacy and security concerns the FAA will have to address during those tests before companies can begin deploying their unmanned aircraft fleets. Since 2012, 42 states have considered drone restrictions because of privacy and safety concerns, with eight of them passing laws on it, and most states requiring warrants in order for aerial video surveillance to be used in criminal cases.

    The FAA will have to develop a written policy on privacy and to address potential safety matters, with the first rules expected to be released in early 2014. The first test site is estimated to open in six months, with drones expected to be tested in “small civil applications.” Tests will then continue at least until February 2017.





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