For those addicted to the HBO's hit series, Homeland, the writers have inserted drones into their plot lines almost as if they were dark villainous anti-heroes. Last season, lead character Sargeant Brody sought revenge for a drone attack gone sideways killing innocent Iraqi children. This season the unmanned aerial vehicle is now used as "eyes on the ground" allowing Brody to seek covert asylum in Afghanistan. Which poses the ethicial question: Were drones solely invented to destroy lives, or can this technology be used for good as well? Well according to one CEO, he thinks he's found the answer.
The world's number one online bookseller-turned-we-sell-everything-but-cars retail establishment was very wise to time the news about his newest proposed service on Cyber Monday to capture the attention of this year's record number of online shoppers. Seeking to address the needs of those who'd like to receive their purchases in a quicker turn-around time, Amazon in its infinite marketing wisdom announced a totally novel new twist on "air mail" -- namely, a 30 minute or less door-to-door delivery by -- you guessed it -- semi-autonomous drones.
Will the Concept Fly?
Tipping his hand somewhat back in 2010, Amazon's Bezos told Charlie Rose that "octocopters" could be airborne within four to five years, using GPS coordinates to find customers. "These are effectively drones," Bezos says, "but there's no reason that they can't be used as delivery vehicles."
While Facebook can boast its 1.1 billion followers, Amazon has been able to turn it's followers into bonafide customers. With 225 million customers around the world, Bezos is intent on amassing an empire that will sell everything to everybody.
Larger than what one would conceive the size of Santa's workshop, Amazon's distribution centers are over 1 million square feet, or the size of more than 20 football fields and there are 96 of them worldwide. Ironically, it was only 18 years ago, that the CEO was driving outgoing packages to the post office himself.
The drone concept according to Bezos would depart from these fulfillment centers and be able to carry about 5 pounds of merchandise, a weight that accounts for around 85 percent of Amazon's products.
The delivery drones would work most effectively in densely populated urban areas where multiple deliveries could be handled in a timely fashion. Powered by electricity, their current range of operation is around 10 miles from the point of origin.
Two-Year Deliveries Guaranteed?
As for when these new drones could be buzzing around in the air a la something out of the Jetsons, Bezos moved up his 4-5 year prediction back in 2010 to: "I know it can't be before 2015, because that's the earliest we could get the rules from the FAA. My guess is that's probably a little optimistic."
Amazon isn't alone in pursuing drone delivery by air. Earlier this year, a pilot project (pun intended) by Domino's Pizza looked at this idea for their customers in Britain, and actually posting a video of a successful test run.
Most likely a PR stunt, food delivered by a DomiCopter is probably going to take a wee bit longer than their current 30-minute guarantee.
However -- now that the state of Colorado has legalized the sale of cannabis, I'd be surveying the friendly skies in that neck of woods for some door-to-door doobage in the not so distant 'Rocky Mountain High' future!