The Future of eCommerce Soars with Drones
Amazon’s Prime Air is all the buzz after being revealed on 60 Minutes. Deliveries in under 30 minutes by autonomous drones; well-timed PR stunt (Cyber Monday) or a real service in the pipeline that we would all totally pay for? It’s most likely a bit of column A and a bit of column B, with the ratio depending on what year it is. Ten years ago this would have been considered a hoax. Ten years from now it could be the norm. If you missed the promo, enjoy:
From a technological standpoint the concept of drone delivery is entirely feasible. In fact, the Amazon site plainly states “we'll be ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is actively working on rules for unmanned aerial vehicles.” There will surely be an inflated amount of incidents (crashes) related to power lines, trees, and other navigation issues in the early days. But we’re talking about packages under five pounds so there shouldn’t be any serious damage done; the worst case scenario is probably one crashing into a moving vehicle, but that’s highly improbable.
More importantly, we don’t even really need Amazon to demonstrate feasibility as other companies have already done so. Zookal, a textbook rental company in Australia, partnered with commercial drone supplier Flirtey and has already tested drone delivery of textbooks and education supplies, and plans to officially offer the service in 2014. Using hexacopters (six rotors) means they can still operate if a rotor fails, and there are anti-collision protocols to avoid fences and trees. Additionally there are no cameras or recording devices so privacy is maintained. “We didn't want this to become 1984," commented Ahmed Haider, Zookal's founder and CEO.
Domino’s also demonstrated its DomiCopter that carries hot pizzas to customers the fastest way possible. Drones don’t have to deal with traffic and they can fly in a straight line to the drop point. That translates to Ooey gooey cheese that burns the roof of the mouth in the most satisfying way.
Of course, it’s now known that UPS has its eye on drones and I can’t see how that will hurt the Amazon situation. And apparently the Chinese SF Express beat everyone to the drone delivery punch by running a live trial in Southern China. Here in America, Amazon is hopeful that the FAA will have regulations ironed out by 2015. You can bet that many companies will be ready to go when the FAA gives the all clear. Fast food joints (tacos to my balcony in under ten minutes, please), big box pharmacies (my roommate sliced his toe open and my carpet is going to be ruined if we don’t get bandages here stat), auto-parts retailers (no, I can’t drive there), they’ll all have reason to use drone delivery systems. Because they run on electricity, can fly straight line paths, and are incredibly affordable, they’re highly efficient. Drone couriers will fly to you, retrieve your item, deliver it, and then return to base, never requiring a tip. Businessmen will leave the windows open in their offices to allow drones to deliver urgent documents from one skyscraper to the next. The more delivery drones in the sky, the fewer trucks on the road, and that’s better for everyone. I already have Amazon Prime and I’m sure I’ll pay whatever they ask for Air because I need my solid color v-neck t-shirt multipack within 30 minutes or not at all.