What does Amazon have to do with drones? The world's largest online retailer, currently serving 225 million customers, has announced a new innovation that could change the face of online shopping and marketing. On an episode of 60 Minutes this weekend, CEO Jeff Bezos revealed Amazon Prime Air, which will use drones to deliver your Amazon packages to you ... in about 30 minutes.
Bezos said the drones can carry objects potentially up to five pounds, which "covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver." Speaking to 60 Minutes correspondent Charlie Rose, Bezos went in-depth on the futuristic new program.
"These generations of vehicles, it could be a 10-mile radius from a fulfillment center," Bezos adds. "So, in urban areas, you could actually cover very significant portions of the population. And so, it won't work for everything; you know, we're not gonna deliver kayaks or table saws this way. These are electric motors, so this is all electric; it's very green, it's better than driving trucks around."
The drones will fly based on GPS coordinates and drop packages right at your doorstep. Still, there are foreseen problems like redundancies and making sure packages don't "land on somebody's head while they're walking around their neighborhood."
And Prime Air's projected debut date? "I know it can't be before 2015, because that's the earliest we could get the rules from the FAA," Bezos explains. "My guess is that's, that's probably a little optimistic. But could it be, you know, four, five years? I think so. It will work, and it will happen, and it's gonna be a lot of fun."
There have been mixed responses to the announcement. Twitter went nuts with jokes about the drones. @bazecraze tweeted, "Thanks, Amazon. Nothing creepier than a drone with a smile."
Yet many see Prime Air as a source of great innovation. Gizmodo covered the story headlined, "Amazon Drones Are Truly Revolutionary [Marketing]" Popular Science spoke to Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), who revels in the innovation Amazon is forging. "Now, the average person in the street realizes this is in the realm of possibility," Toscano tells PopSci. "The seeds have been planted. The question is when, and to what capacity?"
It's predicted that the FAA standards might include the following: they must fly in daylight, they must not fly higher than 400 feet, and they must always remain within sight of a human. But to say that 2015 is likely might be a stretch.
However, four or five years, which Bezos mentions as a more realistic estimate, could be a possibility. Pop Sci notes that in 2018, "private drones — not to be confused with the hundreds of law enforcement or research-oriented models already approved on a case-by-case basis by the FAA — could be relatively commonplace." So, don't count on Amazon drone knocking on your door just yet, but don't be surprised when the time rolls around.
Want to see how the drone works? Watch the video of the Amazon Prime Air below: