Instant Internet Shopping

December 3, 2013 in Transport by bbadmin

amazon drone mail

The internet has revolutionised the way we shop. But since its inception there has been very little innovation in internet shopping. In fact aside from a more modern interface little has changed from the old days of mail order shopping. Until now that is.

Amazon.com has begun testing a robotic drone that will deliver your package from their warehouse in around 30 minutes. When you hit the buy button the automated delivery process will be set in motion. The package will be prepared in their fulfilment centres and transported to your door by a small unmanned aircraft, known as an Octocopter.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezo believes the service could be in operation in less than 5 years, but before then there are some major hurdles to overcome, including complex legislation, developing the technology, security and safety. So is this just a gimmick to get some publicity, or could drone deliveries be the future of internet shopping?

Could Drone Deliveries Work?

In the US the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) currently limits the use of drones to public entities and hobbyists. So currently these devices cannot be used commercially. However there are plans to amend the legislation, so it may be possible this hurdle will be removed within the five year timeframe.

Developing Drone Technology

Drone aircraft are most famous… or perhaps infamous, for their military uses. The Amazon Octocopters will be very different from this, but it does demonstrate the technology can be used successfully. Robotic drones are already used within warehouses to take the goods from storage to packing stations. This is really just an advancement of that technology. There is no reason why Amazon can’t develop the technology within the next few years.

Security

One of the first comments people make about these drones is “what’s to stop people shooting them down?” Well shooting them down is not going to be that easy. Firstly in a busy area people are going to notice someone firing into the air. Then they’d have to get to where the package lands before anybody else. This is not going to be a huge problem, but there will be a risk and it’s something Amazon will need to take into consideration during development.
The other concern is what happens if you’re out of the house when the drone arrives? Well given the delivery time of 30 minutes, it’s unlikely you’re going to go out when you order something, but it’s possible that there could be an emergency and you miss the delivery. An easy solution would be for the parcel to be returned to the factory, but it could also be left in a designated area as an alternative.

Safety

They will need to pass FAA tests to prove they are air worthy, but this should be a mere formality. The problem lies in making the devices more intelligent. At the moment the Octocopters use GPS to guide themselves from the fulfilment centre to the delivery address. However to navigate around busy towns and cities they will need to be able to solve problems to avoid collisions. The technology to do this is already out there. Eventually this level of artificial intelligence will need to be built into Amazon’s octocopters, enabling them to deliver safely deliver their payloads with virtually no human interaction.

The Bear Bottom

As the roads become ever more congested, Amazon could be on to a winner with their airborne delivery system. There will also be environmental benefits, as the lightweight machines have the potential to use less energy, and could be powered by renewable energy. Taking them off the roads also means the delivery can take the most direct route, saving time and energy. There are some very difficult problems to overcome, but I would not be surprised to see one of these little robots hovering by in the very near future.