Amazon Drone Deliveries

Should Amazon use Drones for deliveries

  • Yes

    Votes: 3 30.0%
  • No

    Votes: 7 70.0%

  • Total voters


Just curious about this and wondering what CT users think?

Jeff Bezos Says Amazon Is Seriously Serious About Drone Deliveries
By Marcus Wohlsen 
In the beginning, Amazon was a lot like any other startup. Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos did a little bit of everything for the company.

“Nineteen years ago, I drove the Amazon packages to the post office every evening in the back of my Chevy Blazer,” Bezos writes in his latest annual letter to shareholders. “My vision extended so far that I dreamed we might one day get a forklift.”

But since then, Amazon has gotten a little more ambitious. After many critics (including us) derided his announcement late last year that his company was testing delivery drones, Bezos also used his letter say that the company is doubling down on this wildly ambitious project. Not only is the delivery drone program happening, but according to the CEO, it’s well underway. “The Prime Air team is already flight testing our 5th and 6th generation aerial vehicles, and we are in the design phase on generations 7 and 8,” he writes.

His bullishness on drones isn’t entirely unfounded, following a recent court ruling that nixed the Federal Aviation Administration’s authority to ban commercial use of small unmanned aerial vehicles. Others are working on drone delivery, and in the distant future, this kind of thing may be commonplace, assuming cultural norms evolve along with the technology. In the near term, it’s hard to see how swarms of small octocopters traveling from warehouses to people’s backyards will actually improve the efficiency of Amazon’s retail operation. But one way or another, the CEO’s letter shows, Amazon will continue to hone a delivery network that pushes the limits of instant gratification.

Take the earthbound version of Amazon Prime. For an annual fee, Prime members get unlimited two-day shipping on eligible products at no extra cost. The program has been a key driver of Amazon’s whirring revenue engine, and Bezos says that it continues to thrive. “On a per customer basis, Prime members are ordering more items, across more categories, than ever before,” he writes.

In his letter, Bezos did not address Amazon’s recent decision to raise the annual price of prime to $99, up from $79. And since Amazon doesn’t release precise figures on Prime memberships, it may be hard to know if the increase has any impact on new memberships or renewals. The decision to raise Prime’s price came in response to the billions Amazon loses on shipping costs, and it seems that Bezos and company believe that the addictiveness of Prime will more than make up for the pain of paying extra $20, along with perks such as access to Amazon’s Netflix-like Instant Video library.

Whatever the thinking behind the increase, the Bezos letter makes it clear that shipping is one area on which Amazon will not skimp. Along with pushing ahead on drones, the CEO said the company is aggressively iterating on the design of its warehouses and the software that keeps them running. Now running as many as 96 “fulfillment centers” in all, Amazon has bled profits over the past few years largely because of the money it has poured into expanding and improving its warehouse network. And the expansion keeps going. In the U.S., Bezos said, Amazon will expand its limited Sunday delivery option “to a large portion of the U.S. population,” thanks to a deal with the U.S. Postal Service. In the U.K., Bezos says Amazon has started making many of its deliveries itself to keep up with demand, and in Chinese cities, Amazon now relies on bike couriers.

Ultimately, even as it moves more aggressively into areas such as streaming video and cloud computing, Amazon’s logistical systems are a much more crucial technology to the company’s lasting success. The core business of Amazon is selling and delivering physical stuff, and Bezos has always displayed a strong commitment to the technophilic belief that the only way to succeed is to always get better (what Bezos calls Kaizen, or the Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement). Bezos knows he has to keep figuring out ways to get people the stuff they want more quickly and cheaply, and drones are one possibility. Whether Prime Air ever really flies or not, the mere existence of the program at all telegraphs to shareholders that for Bezos and Amazon, even the sky might not be a limit.
Jeff Bezos Says Amazon Is Seriously Serious About Drone Deliveries
Guessed what sparked my interest was this news yesterday posted here:
Airliner nearly collides with drone over Florida
The near-miss in March between a drone and a US Airways jet in the sky over Tallahassee appears to be the first time a commercial airliner nearly collided in midair, raising fear about the possibility of future close calls.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the pilot of the 50-seat US Airways plane told the FAA he came dangerously close to the drone as he approached the Tallahassee Regional Airport on March 22. At the time, he was flying at about 2,300 feet.

The pilot, who said he came so close with the drone he thought he hit it, described it "as a small camouflaged F-4 fixed-wing aircraft" that could have been a hobby model aircraft.

The FAA doesn't know who was operating the drone, which was painted camouflage, or whether it was government-owned or civilian-owned. The Defense Department told the Journal most military drones are not painted with camouflage. A spokesman had no other information on the incident.

The FAA has given 500 public entities such as police departments permission to fly drones. Only drones have been approved for commercial use—in Alaska.

An FAA official disclosed the incident publicly for the first time this week at a drone conference in San Francisco, citing it as an example of the risks drones pose to jets.

The Journal says there have been other mid-air sightings of drones by aircraft pilots that were not near-misses.  In March 2013, an Alitalia jet heading into JFK Airport in New York came within 200 feet of drone. The paper reported the FBI said Friday it is still investigating that incident.
I kinda like the idea but only if properly regulated to where they don't provide nuisance noise or obstacles to contend with for civilians or other aircraft.  Once they get too common though they'll need all sorts of anti-collision protection - before you know it we'll have freeways in the sky with directed traffic flows and layers that these aircraft will need to be in.
Maybe its for drone deliveries from central warehouses direct to satellite warehouses.  Drone deliveries to people's houses?  Wouldn't we be seeing "first overnight delivery" as a shipping option long before that?
Just watching here and looking at the numbers above (kind of a side non committed view).
Guessing this is for the last mile delivery.  Found another article related but not related.
Personally here its sparked a new other interest.
Parrot’s New Bebop Drone Can Do Amazing Things
December 19, 2013 - Forbes
Amazon And Drones -- Here Is Why It Will Work
Following Amazon’s announcement that they were piloting drones for last mile home deliveries, I wrote a column that expressed great doubts about the feasibility of this.  But since then we have learned that UPS has also been researching this, and my colleague and fellow wonk at ARC, Ralph Rio, explained to me why he thinks it will work.
I asked him to put something in writing.Here is what he sent me:

You probably saw the 60 minutes segment on Amazon with Bezo’s revelation of its drone project. 
More recently, Fred Smith said FedEx has several drone studies underway.  Are they nuts?  No.  Here is why.

During the holiday season, internet purchases were reported to have grown 20% year over year.  Compounded, that doubles in four years.  Using current methods, could there be a doubling of delivery capacity by 2017?  Most likely not.  Also, consider the competitive demands for free delivery.  Finding a better way to deliver small packages has become a business sustainability imperative.

 The media coverage for Bezo’s announcement tended towards wide-eyed, futuristic skepticism.  It focused on the “last mile” problem from the warehouse to the home i.e., replacing the delivery truck.  They got it wrong.

 Instead of replacing, think about augmenting.  Jeff said that 80% of the packages are light enough for a drone to carry.  That means 20% of packages will need a delivery truck and person to carry the package to the destination.

What could drones do?  Consider a truck with sides that roll-up to reveal shelves with drones.  The truck stops at a home and, while the delivery person gets and delivers a package, multiple drones emerge and deliver packages within a few hundred feet, and return.  If a drone has a problem, the delivery person is there to help.  Also, the drones could be limited to a lower altitude that avoids FAA issues.  .

 With the delivery augmentation approach, each stop releases a swarm of drones.  One stop delivers five packages rather than one.  This would be a huge productivity improvement for a dense, same day delivery route – like in suburbia.

 Of course, this approach to package delivery requires creation of complex algorithms for issues like when to use, route optimization, sequencing, error correction, failure response, and more.  Amazon has the PhD math scientists to solve these problems.  The major impediment may be the business agreement between Amazon and the package delivery service providers.  But, this may solved with the next iteration of its agreement with the post office.

 The technology is known, and could be deployed.  We will be watching for you to see how the application of this technology unfolds.

One recommendation for the Amazon team – stop using the term drones which are known for delivering death in the military.  Use a more friendly term, like humming birds – that is closer to what they sound like.  I’m looking forward to brightly colored humming birds visiting my neighborhood and delivering presents.  You have got to like that imagery!”

I still have grave doubts about the feasibility of using drones for home delivery, but when a colleague I respect has a different opinion, it is worth taking a second look.
In a city, with high rises, a group of packages all have to go in through the main door, to be later distributed to the various recipients.
In a suburban area, even at low altitude, necessary to avoid civil aviation, you have trees and power lines to contend with.
Kids and idiots would be throwing rocks at them, catching them in nets as they came in to land, or even shooting at them.
Packages dropped off on driveways, necessary to provide obstacle clearance, would be stolen more than those sitting on porches.
An interesting idea, but there are many practical issues that would need to be overcome.
In the 50's people were conceptualizing personal car/airplanes and that never panned out.
Where I live UPS hires temporary help to ride along and serve as "drones" during the holidays.  Wouldn't it be cheaper to do more of that than invest in capital equipment that sits idle for most of the year? 
Plus, why would amazon be researching this?  Unless they were contemplating their own delivery fleet of some kind to supplant UPS/FedEx/USPS?  I think I heard amazon is trying to do grocery deliveries in certain geographies (similar to WebVan if you remember that company from around Y2000).
Plus, do we know for sure that they would be flying drones and not self-driving car drones like Google has allegedly gotten to work in real traffic conditions?  If they did their driving at night, they could avoid a lot of traffic....
Ah, missed that one.  Here it is: .
 I guess the little plastic container becomes a souvenir of sorts..... 
Maybe they'll launch the UAV's from those amazon locker locations they have all over the place.  
...Or, they could team up with Dominos Pizza:,
which wants to do essentially the same thing.
The little ultralight RC copters my son  plays with hold only enough charge to hold themselves aloft (no payload) for 5 minutes, if that.  I'm impressed a copter can haul a pizza for 10 minutes and still make it back.  Are they using fuel cells or something?
NeverDie said:
The little ultralight RC copters my son  played with hold only enough charge to hold themselves aloft (no payload) for 5 minutes, if that.  I'm impressed a copter can haul a pizza for 10 minutes and still make it back.  Are they using fuel cells or something?
I commented on this when the Amazon video first came out, that the video made me think of the old Bell labs jet pack video from the 60s where they spliced together a lot of 20-45 second clips to make it appear the individual was flying for miles with the jet pack.
In a city, with high rises, a group of packages all have to go in through the main door, to be later distributed to the various recipients.
In a suburban area, even at low altitude, necessary to avoid civil aviation, you have trees and power lines to contend with.
Kids and idiots would be throwing rocks at them, catching them in nets as they came in to land, or even shooting at them.
Packages dropped off on driveways, necessary to provide obstacle clearance, would be stolen more than those sitting on porches.
I learned to fly in the 1980's.  That said never flew over residential areas; well except one time; but I almost lost my camera hanging out a bit for some good pictures.  We have an airport a few miles away and I always see folks flying willy nilly like at low altitudes; such that many folks disregard standards for their own self; which is a pity; cuz they think its "fun"; or no one is paying attention these yeah there could be an issue / conflict here...lots of "what is Good for the Goose Is Good for the Gander" stuff lately with self conflicting dictates which will lead to no good....
Yup; looking like little toys these days....bunch of folks upset....Here is a battery operated one....not really a "copter" though...but a drone is s drone is a drone (or so the media saids).
L-3 Unmanned Systems debuts all-electric, small tactical ISR unmanned aircraft system
May 13, 2014
By Courtney Howard
Executive Editor

ORLANDO, Fla., 13 May 2014. L-3 Unmanned Systems in Ashburn, Va., is introducing its Airborne Pursuit and Exploitation (APEX) small tactical unmanned aircraft system (UAS) at AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems 2014 conference.

L-3’s APEX UAS is a compact, lightweight system designed as a small tactical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platform, with a capacity to carry multiple payloads simultaneously. It is well suited for close-range ISR missions, first responder calls or over-the-hill reconnaissance missions, low-intensity conflicts, and urban warfare operations.

 “With APEX, we’re offering today’s warfighters an unprecedented level of capability from a small platform,” said J.R. Gear, vice president of strategic development at L-3 Unmanned Systems. “APEX’s ability to be operated by a very small team and provide multi-mission and payload flexibility brings a new level of capability to expeditionary operators. The system is currently being used by U.S. Forces.”

APEX is an all-electric UAS that provides nearly seven hours of endurance with a range of 100+ kilometers (km) using a high-power series Lithium Polymer (LiPo) battery system and is runway-independent and expeditionary. Operated by a team of three people, APEX reduces the need for a large operational footprint, while providing the equivalent ISR capability offered by larger UAS platforms. L-3’s APEX employs a parachute recovery system, eliminating the need for a runway or specific recovery device, and utilizes a pneumatic rail-launched system. Unique to the UAS is an electro-optical/cooled infrared gimbal payload, which provides both day and night surveillance and reconnaissance capability.
Interesting stuff there drvnbysound....saw this in your second link....
Local residents in Deer Trail, Colorado, have even attempted to pass a law that makes it legal to shoot down drones with the proper drone hunting license.
I remember in the 1960's our grade school science teacher did get us all (the entire 4th grade)  into model rockets; biggest thrill was to put a camera (among other things)  in the rocket and have it take pictures when descending....well also kept a picture of an old work ready to retire mentor in my cubical who had worked with Wernher von Braun years before...which totally impressed me...
Bond meets MacGyver: $100 micro drone is designed for hacks
EDN - Lee Goldberg -May 15, 2014
I’ve just discovered my kitchen is a treacherous place to learn to fly a micro-quadcopter. My pilot’s license has enabled me to get a bit of stick time in lots of unusual flying machines, including a motor glider, a WWII era biplane, several ultralights, and an ex-Soviet military transport, but none of them have prepared me to handle Extreme Fliers’ Micro Drone 2.0. This blinking, buzzing, and downright adorable contraption is much more sensitive than anything else I’ve flown, and can maneuver in several degrees of freedom I didn’t even know existed.


Due to gusty wind conditions in the yard, my first test flights were conducted indoors. But even in still air, learning to fly the Micro Drone 2.0 takes time, patience and good hand-eye coordination. But indoor flight has its own challenges – especially when it’s conducted within the narrow, obstacle strewn canyons formed by my kitchen counters. Thank goodness the little critter is gyro-equipped and computer-stabilized or I'd never have been able to even achieve the shaky 1-minute test hop I documented in the video below. I’m told however that, in properly-trained hands, my machine is a little easier to fly and has smoother, more positive directional control than many drones costing 2-4× more.  After an hour or two of practice, the copter’s already spending more time in the air than waiting for me to retrieve it from whatever dark corner it randomly dove into. It will be a while before I’m able to casually maneuver it around a crowded room or make spot landings on someone’s lap but, as they say, getting there will be half the fun!
I expect to have even more fun once I add the optional camera to this computer-stabilized micro-drone. My drone so closely resembles its smarter (and more costly) fictional counterparts appearing in the TV Series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” that it’s easy to imagine myself working alongside Agent Fitz launching it off on classified reconnaissance missions around the house!

There’ll be even more fun in my near future as I start experimenting with its open-source airframe. Besides being a very slick, richly-featured but affordable product, its open-source design allows users to hack the electronics easily and to modify the airframe with 3D-printed parts. Owners can download the .STL files  and modify the parts using virtually any of the commonly-used CAD programs, such as Blender or SketchUp.

There are already printable files available for some very innovative variants of the drone, with more to come from a small but very active user community that’s sprung up around the early-production units which were sold via a Kickstarter campaign earlier this spring.  One of the first projects I’ve got lined up after I complete my training at Open Source Ecology’s 3D Printer Boot Camp is to begin working on my own mods for the drone. Priced at $100 (plus another $29 for the camera), the Extreme Fliers Micro Drone 2.0 is an incredible bargain, both in terms of how much technology is packed into its tiny airframe and in terms of the silly grin it puts on your face.