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Amazon testing Octocopter ‘Prime Air’ drones for 30 min deliveries

by Mark Tyson on 2 December 2013, 09:34

Tags: Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN)

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was interviewed on the American 60 Minutes news magazine programme yesterday. Among the interesting topics he talked about, Bezos mentioned that Amazon is working on an unmanned drone delivery system, called Amazon Prime Air, which uses Octocopters (see the video below). Another eye opening revelation by Bezos was that Amazon Web Services (AWS) is building a private cloud system for the CIA.

Amazon Prime Air

Amazon is currently testing unmanned drones to delivery packages to customers. The drones, called Octocopters carry up to 2.3Kg in parcels. Bezos mentioned a 30 minute delivery time, so perhaps the Octocopters have an airborne time of just over an hour or so. At this time the US air authorities haven’t approved the plans and it is thought it will take up to five years for the Amazon Prime Air service to start - but it is hoped it can start as early as 2015.

Talking on the CBS 60 Minutes show Bezos said “I know this looks like science fiction, but it's not.” He added that “We can do half-hour delivery... and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds (2.3kg), which covers 86% of the items that we deliver.”

Amazon thinks that seeing its drones in the sky will one day “be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today.” The Prime Air FAQ answers questions about public safety and reassures us that it will be a priority. However my immediate concern was over my Amazon order being caught in a net or shot down on its way to my house; which is a topic not addressed in the FAQ.

Amazon’s CIA cloud service

GigaOM wrote about a rumoured Amazon and CIA contract back in March and thought that such a deal “will probably never get confirmed”. However Amazon’s Bezos confirmed it, as well as the Octocopter story, without even being asked about it, also on the 60 Minutes show. Conveniently one of Amazon’s largest data centres is based only about 20 miles down the road from the CIA’s Langley, Virginia HQ.

HEXUS Forums :: 26 Comments

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Very interesting idea, but in practice I can't really see it happening in the UK.
why not? we are more densely populated than the US. Or do you mean that the CAA aren't as forward thinking as the FAA?
What happens if you live in a flat then?? Do you simply leave a window open??
Been thinking about this one since I first read about it a few hours ago. I think this does actually make a lot of sense, but only in some situations or areas.

The areas Amazon fulfillment centers are built next to good infrastructure so they can get large numbers of orders away in trucks quickly. But what about the areas around said fulfillment centers? These orders have to be trucked to the distribution center for the chosen delivery agent, then put on smaller wagons then sent to the house. I know people that can almost see the Dunfermline facility from their house, this is when a drone would be good. Housing areas round there are new developments of detached houses, relatively well off and probably very likely to order lots of little things from Amazon. Instead of paying a couple of pounds to Royal Mail to deliver something that could probably be done on foot if you really wanted, you could fly it over. That's the bit I think makes sense. Once the cost of the drones have been overcome, you are talking about pennies, or even fractions of a penny to deliver items within that 30 minute area.

Also tying in with this, I bet it would be really easy to build a delivery slot function into this option. You could choose a 30min slot any time in the evening when you are going to be home to meet the drone. It won't ever effect me, I'm extremely unlikely to ever live close enough to an Amazon fulfillment centre, but I do like the concept.
I was part of a secret beta test for this. I had an exercise ball delivered. I felt really sorry for the Amazon guy having to ensure all went well: