It was pretty big news when Amazon.com announced it would begin using the United States Postal Service to make deliveries to customers in select markets on Sundays. Now comes a CBS broadcast of "60 Minutes" during which Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos announces the company's future plan to use drones — known as octocopters — to fly ordered goods to customers.
Mr. Bezos said the octocopters would be able to deliver packages up to five pounds to customers within a 10-mile radius from its growing number of fulfillment centers within a 30-minute timeframe.
Unlike military craft that are remotely piloted, Mr. Bezos said octocopters would be autonomous and deliver goods to locations based on GPS coordinates.
"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 neighborhood," said Mr. Bezos.
As to when Amazon will begin making deliveries by octocopter, Mr. Bezos said that wouldn't happen any earlier than 2015. It will take at least that long for the Federal Aviation Administration to develop rules incorporating drones into the nation's air traffic.
According to Bloomberg News, drones are being tested as delivery systems in both Australia and China. Zookal, an Australian textbook company, has been testing drones to deliver materials to students.
How likely is it that flying drones will become a practical way to make deliveries in the not too distant future?