Back in 2013, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos made the announcement that a fleet of unmanned drones would augment its in-person delivery system. Bezos didn’t just drop the news in a press release. He took the stage on “60 Minutes” with the now dethroned Charlie Rose to show a slickly produced video of the drones in action.
With the ability to carry up to five pounds, the drones tapped directly into the “I need it right now” mentality. Order your product on Amazon and a buzzy drone would faithfully deliver it in 30-minutes or less. Plagued by impatience, I was the perfect customer for this service. Plus, I confess the idea of a little drone appearing out of the sky and dropping off my package delighted me. It has that wonder of movie magic jumping off the screen and coming to life.
So why are my fancy lotions and potions still arriving at snail’s pace in two days, Jeff? You promised me drone delivery in three to five years and now it’s coming up on six. I pay for Prime for a reason!!
Okay, I’m not that much of a spoiled brat. Two days is just fine. Usually.
Other Companies Winning The Drone Wars
Amazon isn’t the only company investing in drone delivery. Wing, a company owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, just received its FAA approval for drone delivery. They beat Amazon to the punch and that program will kick off in Virginia later this year. And that brings up another part of the problem with getting delivery drone programs off the ground: regulations via the FAA.
As everyone knows, jumping through the hoops of a government agency’s requirements and paperwork can sap your wallet, make you go insane, or probably both. But, the federal government did give a helping hand by passing a three-year program that will allow companies to test out the feasibility of using drones in its program, which was just upped to five.
There’s also the issue of whether people will buy into drones as an accepted method of delivery. Who wouldn’t want to have a sci-fi drone deliver your toilet paper? I know I would, but how long until the novelty wears off? What about noise issues? People may not mind the buzz of a drone arriving to drop off their stuff, but what about their neighbor’s stuff? A constant noise intrusion like that could be a real turn off. Not to mention a feeling of having your space violated.
The Upside Of Downsized Drones
On the other hand, maybe the noise pollution and annoyance of a neighbor’s drone order can be overcome when you look at environmental impact. They wreak a lot less havoc on the earth than a delivery truck spewing combustible byproducts. We discuss why they are a great alternative here.
Another upside for implementing drones for delivery is it will create jobs. Someone has to tell direct and maintain all those drones, after all. Not to mention the behind the scenes work required for hardware and software development.
Using drones for business purposes isn’t new. The Associated Press reported there are already 110,000 commercial drones operating in U.S. airspace. But, these drones fly over rural areas and are used in the mining, agricultural and surveying industries. Not for delivery.
While we haven’t seen or heard the buzz of Amazon delivery drones overhead yet, Bezos promises they’re still coming. He addresses questions about them on a dedicated FAQ section on Amazon’s site. And with news of Wing’s FAA approval hot off the press, Amazon can’t be far behind.