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Amazon “Prime Air” Delivering Orders Within 30 Minutes

Posted: December 2nd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Amazon, News From the web, Standout | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Amazon “Prime Air” Delivering Orders Within 30 Minutes

Amazon "Prime Air" Delivering Orders Within 30 Minutes

The online behemoth that is Amazon plans to deploy a swarm of autonomous drones to deliver product within half an hour of ordering. The ambitious project – Prime Air – still needs safety testing and US federal approval, however, Amazon’s visionary leader Jeff Bezo’s reckons he’ll have Prime Air lifting off within 5 years ::::

VIDEO:  The body of the device is about the size of a flat-screen monitor, and it is attached to eight small helicopter rotors and sits on four tall legs. The claws under the belly of the “octocopter” then latch onto a standard-sized plastic bucket that rolls down a conveyer belt at Amazon’s distribution centre. Inside the bucket is the order.

The drone lifts off and whizzes into the air like a giant mechanical insect to deliver the package just 30 minutes after clicking the “pay” button on Amazon.com. Then it buzzes back into the air and returns to base.

The mini-drones are powered by environmentally friendly electric motors and can cover areas within a 16 kilometre radius of fulfilment centres, thus covering a significant portion of the population in urban areas.

Scifi FACT! or Bezos BULL?

It all sounds a little far-fetched, a lot science fiction and there are still a bunch of hoops Amazon must jump through before this plan becomes viable. But if nothing else Mr Bezos performed a stunning PR stunt over the weekend, announcing via “60 Minutes” that the retail giant he created 20 years ago wanted to jettison itself into a scifi-style future by delivering packages via unmanned drones.

We have no doubt Mr Bezos is serious – he certainly loves a controversy – and by simply mouthing the words he’s stuck some serious pressure on the US Federal Aviation Authority, who to date thought they could cogitate over the whole civil-drone thing, after all, what kind of trouble can a couple of kids with a remote-flyer in a park cause? …oops

The reality is if Mr Bezos hadn’t bitten this bullet, someone else surely would have, drones are becoming big business outside the military. From law enforcement to real estate agents, the number of non-military drones is rapidly increasing, the FAAs prediction of 7,500 unmanned aircraft in the sky by 2018 might just have been shot down.

“These are effectively drones but there’s no reason that they can’t be used as delivery vehicles,” Bezos told CBS’s 60 Minutes program. “I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not. We can do half-hour delivery… and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds (2.3 kilograms), which covers 86 per cent of the items that we deliver.”

Clearly Not Everyone’s Crazy about Bezos’ Cleverness

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates told CNN the plan may be a little unrealistic, although he acknowledged the notion of drones could be useful for things such as charitable aid.

“I would say he’s probably on the optimistic or perhaps overoptimistic end of that,” Mr Gates said. “It’s great that people have dreams like that. If we can make the cost of delivery easier, then it’s not just books, it’s getting supplies out to people in tough places. Drones overall will be more impactful than I think people recognise in positive ways to help society.”

Prime Air Might Take-off by 2015

The drones would operate autonomously and follow the GPS coordinates they receive to drop the items off at target locations.

“It’s very green, it’s better than driving trucks around,” Mr Bezos said

He also claims they are safe because the prototype has redundant motors that will keep it in the air and prevent it from crashing.

“The hard part here is putting in all the redundancy, all the reliability, all the systems you need to say, ‘Look, this thing can’t land on somebody’s head while they’re walking around their neighbourhood,'” he told CBS.

Amazon said the octocopters would be “ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place,” noting that the Federal Aviation Administration was hard at work hammering out rules for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Amazon projected a more optimistic timeline than Mr Bezos for the project to be activated, saying the FAA’s rules could be in place as early as 2015, and that Amazon Prime Air would be ready at that time.

Mr Bezos hinted that part of the motivation behind the mini-drones was to make sure Amazon remains at the cutting edge of the retail industry. He says that companies have short life spans… “Amazon will be disrupted one day, I’d love for it to be after I’m dead.”

Comments on Twitter about the program ranged from amazed to humorous.

Barnacules Nerdgasm @Branacules wrote “Redneck Christmas shopping just got easier with #primeair, it’s way easier to shoot down than Santa Claus.”

Michael Toscano, head of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International – AUVSI – predicts that a booming market for civilian drones will lead to the creation of 100,000 jobs over the next decade.

It goes without say that traditional delivery methods are under threat by this technology, if UPS and FedEx weren’t looking into drones delivery systems prior to Mr Bezos’ TV rant, they are now…

Flirting With Flight

Amazon isn’t the first to come up with the idea of a drone delivery system. Domino’s Pizza floated the idea last year, although theirs was more marketing exercise .

Here in Australia, start-up Flirtey.com.au has an entire business plan based on delivering textbooks by drone. The company are currently trying to get approval from the Australian regulator CASA to take off. If given the go-ahead, they’ll be one of dozens of Australian companies already using drones for business.

However, while commercial drones have been legal in Australia for more than a decade, they’re still banned for commercial use in the US  and are likely to remain so until at least 2015, when the FAA is due to lay out the rules on how they will share the most crowded airspace in the world.

US Remains Prissy About Privacy

Amazon’s announcement is a game changer for a couple of reasons. When one of the biggest retailers in the world, and the leader in home delivery, says it’s putting drones into its business model, people start taking the idea a little more seriously.

People in this industry-in-waiting talk about how drones are going to change our lives in ways we can’t yet imagine – as they gradually take on jobs we humans decide are too dirty, difficult, dangerous, or expensive.

Jerry Lemieux, a retired US Air Force Colonel who now heads up the Unmanned Vehicle University in Phoenix, Arizona.

“As soon as they open up the air space in America, there will be an explosion,” he said. “There is already a forecast of 70,000 jobs in three years, and a $13 billion impact to the US economy. And I think that’s a low number.”

Amazon’s announcement has ignited a debate that’s been quietly simmering in the US over what all those eyes in the sky are going to mean for personal privacy.

The US is a country that takes it’s privacy very seriously. Civil liberties campaigner Michael Khavari says threats to privacy are among his chief concerns regarding the use of drones.

“Drones are able to pick up on all sorts of things,” Mr Khavari said. “Wireless signals from your cellphone, thermal imaging, license plate recognition, facial recognition. And even then, drones can be outfitted with these devices that can see through walls, with thermal imaging. Aside from your home, you’re really not going to have any place that’s private anymore.”

Mr Khavari’s lobbying helped Charlottesville, Virginia become the first municipality in the US to ban drones from its skies.

Another town in Colorado went even further, issuing drone hunting licenses for people who want to shoot them down. If it all sounds a little paranoid, consider the context.

The word ‘drone’ is still mostly associated with the killing machines used so effectively by the US military in Afghanistan and Yemen. On home soil, the early adopters of drones have been law enforcement agencies – most famously in North Dakota, when a local sheriff called in a military drone to help capture a family of cattle rustlers.

Throw into this volatile mix Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent of US government spying on its own citizens, and you have a problem that goes well beyond a few rural town councils.

Texas state senator Lance Gooden wrote the bill that passed the state legislature this year restricting what can be done with the images captured by drones – including by police.

“Once every police department and every governmental agency has drones, we will never get rid of them, we will never be able to regulate them,” Senator Gooden said. “In Texas, police can’t use drones to enforce traffic. They have to get a warrant. They have to say how the images are being used, how they are being stored, how they are captured. If law enforcement searches 300 houses at random every night, they are probably going to find something.”

“But does that mean they should be able to?” Senator Gooden said

Eight other US states have followed Texas and passed their own anti-drone laws. In the countdown to the launch of commercial drones, it is likely more states will rush to do the same. It’s been a perfect storm, a controversy the massive US aerospace industry could never have predicted.

Talking Up Change

With serious possibilities in sight, the aerospace industry is now frenetically attempting to shift the narrative, talking up the potential for drones to improve people’s lives.

They talk about positive uses, firefighting, tornado early warning systems, search and rescue. Or how the struggling farm sector would be able to save money and use less pesticide by crop-dusting small areas, rather than contracting large planes to dust entire fields, the possibilities are limitless according to aerospace experts.

“You can use solar-powered fuel cells and alternative power systems to keep UAVs up in the air for very long periods of time,” Mr Lemieux said. “Take an internet hub, put it on a UAV, and now go over a major city. And you are a new internet service provider. You capture 5 per cent of the market, it’s $100 million.”

Online Auction Giant Cans Bezos’ Drone Delivery Dream

The idea of drones delivering online purchases has certainly sparked debate, however the idea doesn’t fly with Ebay CEO John Donahue, the head of the world biggest auction site told Bloomberg TV the idea is fantasy.

“We’re not focusing on long-term fantasies, we’re focusing on things we can do today,” Donahue said.

Donahue underlined eBay Now, a service available in Chicago, Dallas and the Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens areas of New York, and the San Francisco Peninsula area. EBay Now offers delivery of goods in an hour, purchased from local stores and personally delivered by an eBay shopper. It costs US$5 per order.

Donahue said he wasn’t opposed to companies pursuing far-out challenges.

“I think bold innovation is important, our focus on innovation is around commerce.” he said.

The future is here, lets see if the most innovative nation on the planet picks it up…

@mcsixtyfive

RELATED! US FAA Roadmap For UAS in NAS

RELATED! Prime Air via Storify

 

source: amazon
source: afp
source: faa
source: auvsi
source: bloombergtv
image source: amazon
video source: youtube


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