Will test show Amazon’s drone program is ready to take off?
Plenty of people have mocked Amazon.com since 2013 when CEO Jeff Bezos told “60 Minutes” that he envisioned a future in which customers would have their orders air delivered by drones known as octocopters. With the news this week that Amazon had successfully completed its first drone delivery to a customer in England, many will continue to have questions about the wisdom of pursuing this venture. Others, however, may decide that Mr. Bezos and company are on to something.
In a video released by Amazon yesterday, the company said it is conducting tests of its Prime Air Delivery (drone) service in the Cambridge area. The service will use “drones to safely deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.”
The first delivery was made on Dec. 7 to a customer identified as Richard B. The order, which included a Fire streaming device and popcorn, took 13 minutes from click to delivery and covered about two miles from Amazon’s nearby Prime Air fulfillment center.
Mr. B. is one of two customers that Amazon is working with to conduct its field tests. The company has said it plans to expand the test to dozens of others in an area that includes farmland and open fields.
The test grew out of an agreement Amazon made with U.K. authorities earlier this year. The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is working with a cross-government team on the test. In July, CAA policy director Tim Johnson said, “We want to enable the innovation that arises from the development of drone technology by safely integrating drones into the overall aviation system. These tests by Amazon will help inform our policy and future approach.”
Amazon has been largely stymied in its attempts to get its drone program off the ground in the U.S. due to FAA regulations. Earlier this year, 7-Eleven made the first legal drone delivery to a customer in the U.S. The delivery made to a residence in Reno, NV included Slurpee drinks, a chicken sandwich, doughnuts, hot coffee and 7-Select candy.
- Amazon Prime Air’s First Customer Delivery – YouTube
- Amazon and UK Government Aim for the Sky with Partnership on Drones – Amazon.com/Business Wire
- Amazon preps for retail drone wars – RetailWire
- 7-Eleven makes history with consumer drone delivery – RetailWire
- Are Amazon’s ambitions flying too high for comfort? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see a viable use for drones in making deliveries to consumers? Do you think Amazon’s plan will concentrate on using drones for deliveries in rural and more open suburban areas?