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Will Your Next Amazon Delivery Driver Be a Drone?

Will Your Next Amazon Delivery Driver Be a Drone?

Naturally the follow-up half-joking questions are do drones need to wear mask, sanitize their metallic “hands,” or appreciate tips? But, with Amazon winning Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval this Monday for a drone delivery fleet is a milestone in the evolution of drones and in the way technology can solve for many logistical complications during the Covid-19 lockdown. This is an exciting development in technology and the online landscape as everyone is looking for a creative solution to overcome barriers of safety and access to everything from entertainment to that one product on Amazon for under $20 that Buzzfeed recommend would make your life way better and you desperately need to be delivered, contact-free.

The drone project finally advancing to the point of an FAA stamp of approval is a long-time coming for Amazon. While this feels like we’re about to take a giant step into a previously only-imagined, prototyped and visionary future, according to CNBC Amazon has been testing drones since 2013. Back in 2013 the project had less of a greater consumer and social benefit and many debated the pros and cons. Now it seems like a no-brainer how the buzz of a drone is the least of our worries and might actually solve for a lot of issues.

The online retail giant Amazon, now in its full “prime,” has become an increasingly vital life-line for many who have been impacted directly by the pandemic and I mean, even before all this, who doesn’t love knowing you can push a button and have something delivered to you the same day. Adding to the magic of immediate-gratification and a safe way to acquire everything you need from batteries to that Funko Pop that is suddenly back in stock. So what better time to move ahead with a drone fleet as for must of us during lockdown grocery delivery has never been more both thrilling, like surprise treasure arriving at your door, or necessary with working from home and grocery store wait times.

Now that we’re all excited to rate our first drone delivery experience and feel like we’re in yet another post-apocalyptic movie set in the future, we of course need to ask what are the current limitations and potential of this technology? At this point, the initial stage of implementing drone delivery (as specified in Amazon’s now FAA approved petition) will be for areas with low density populations and delivering packages under 5 lbs. within 30 minutes or less. This is a thrilling possibility and I can’t wait to see it in action, but sorry LA-area our entire new work from home set-up scheduled for sometime in September will most not arrive via drone!

According to CNN Business, the drone program took bounds forward when David Carbon, a former Boeing executive, joined Amazon and took the lead on its drone program this past March. Amazon is the third drone delivery company to receive the certification from the FAA. In 2019, UPS and Wing (a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet) entered the market first. At this point, UPS has made medical deliveries at two hospitals in North Carolina and delivered prescriptions from a CVS in Florida.

With the level of money Amazon has dedicated to this project and with an ever exploding customer-base accelerated by pandemic social distancing, we can only imagine more momentum might be in Amazon’s corner to turn a prototype into a reality. In June 2019, Amazon released video of a VTOL model that is believed to be very similar, if not the same, as the current working model:

If you’re not already excited about the possibility, let me leave you with a teaser, directly from Amazon’s new wing “Prime Air.” Amazon’s official promo video for this service highlights a small trial in Cambridge, England with 2 customers. Is this innovative? Yes. Are those of us in urban areas jealous? Yes. Amazon’s goal of course is to expand and with our current uncertain future, experimenting and green-lighting technology that sets the sky as the limit is clearly the way forward. The question is how long will it take for drone technology to be possible in the complex airspace of urban environments. 

Besides the delivery of prescriptions or subscribe and save vitamins from Amazon, what other essential services could help accelerate drone development at this point or should Amazon look into beta-testing a driverless Tesla fleet to deliver that desk you really need after months of working from home on the couch? While these questions of scalability of Prime Air and how many months or years out it might be before a drone shows up at your door, the current demand seems to be diminishing the natural human skepticism and fear of surveillance  when it comes to uncanny delivery robots soaring through the sky. The extremes of the pandemic are indeed a silver lining for Amazon and the future uses and implementations of drones; in this case, necessity is the approver of invention. 

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