A Look At Amazon's Burgeoning Robot Army
Currently, Amazon utilizes around 1,000 robot workers on its facility floors. These robots - designed and manufactured by Kiva Systems, a company purchased by Amazon for $775 million in 2012 - are tied into a complex order fulfillment grid, significantly cutting down on the costs associated with customer orders. This week, Amazon announced its intend to expand these robots.
In short, it looks like Google's not the only one building a robot army.
According to CEO Jeff Bezos - speaking to investors in a shareholder meeting on Wednesday - Amazon expects to significantly increase its robotic infrastructure, implementing somewhere around nine thousand more units by the end of the year. According to Amazon, this will not significantly impact the number of human employees working at the organization.
The warehouse is only the first step. Eventually, Amazon wants to start sending packages to customers' homes via airborne drones - not exactly good news for the fleets of delivery staff the company currently employs. From the sounds of things, the company's ultimately aiming for complete automation. That is to say, once an order is placed, it's sorted, packed, and delivered entirely by drones.
Of course, such a future's still a very long way off. Amazon's got plenty of legal and technological hurdles to leap over before it can start- chief of which is how to prevent vandalism and theft to their drones. By automating their delivery process in such a fashion, Amazon runs the very real risk of packages being stolen en masse. After all, it's a lot easier to take down a drone than to rob a delivery driver.
Not only that...the technology's currently completely illegal. There currently doesn't exist any sensor technology advanced enough to prevent mid-air collisions, while the idea of Amazon operating its own fleet of aircraft isn't exactly one that has defense agencies thrilled. On top of that, there's the question of where these drones could be launched from - it's not exactly cost-effective to turn every Amazon distribution center into a miniature airport.
Eventually, we might see fleets of Amazon delivery drones in the skies to match the robotic armies in its warehouses. Until Amazon can navigate through the quagmire of legal and technological issues, that won't be happening any time soon. Until then, we'll just have to settle for robot warehouses, I guess.