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Amazon Drone Delivery

by | Nov 9, 2016 | Delivery, Technology

In 2013 online retailer Amazon announced plans to develop drone delivery as an alternative to using courier or Click & Collect. Amazon Prime Air aims to enable customers to receive their goods within 30 minutes of ordering, which is a tall order. It’s technically possible to have a journey time of less than half an hour, but the item still needs to be picked and packed, which typically depends on demand and staffing.

The principle is that items weighing around 2kg can be carried by a miniature Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) from an Amazon Fulfilment Centre to a landing pad in the customer’s garden. So far, so feasible.

Even if the technology and regulation enables it to ‘take off’, the project also relies on customers around the world to embrace the service. Will people be convinced that drone delivery is as secure as waiting 24 hours for conventional courier delivery?

amazon drone delivery

Drone Delivery

Technical issues are abundant, such as aerial obstacles that may be in the drone’s path. On the way to the customer, the drone would have to encounter and avoid overhead electricity cables, birds, tall buildings and trees. Even if the device could be programmed (or manually piloted) to identify and divert away from static architecture, it’s pretty impossible to steer clear of fast-moving and unpredictable birds. Their ‘sense and avoid’ technology needs to be extremely sophisticated in order for drone delivery to overcome these literal obstacles.

Regulation appears to be the biggest hurdle in the way of implementing this aerial drone technology for commercial use. America’s Federal Aviation Association will not make commercial use of UAVs legal unless several safety measures are met. The drones must not fly higher than 400ft or faster than 100mph, and they must be monitored by human pilots to ensure safe transit.

Amazon Drone Delivery

With Wi-Fi, GPS and remote imaging required to operate the drones and identify landing locations, there is also a question of data privacy. Amazon will inevitably have to collect data based on the location of the customers and what they are ordering.

The goods will ultimately be left outside, albeit on the customer’s property. The customer must decide if this innovation is worthwhile for the sake of saving delivery time.

Of course, there is inevitably one ultimate winner in the scenario, from increased sales and lower costs associated with delivery. Otherwise Amazon wouldn’t develop the technology.

Could we soon reach a point in the UK where we can order something from Amazon in the morning and have it arrive in our back garden by the time we get home from work?