Amazon wants to deliver packages via octocopter drones

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos gave a rare TV interview to Charlie Rose today as part of a profile of the company on CBS News' 60 Minutes. During the segment, Bezos revealed a previously secret R&D project that could revolutionize how its packages are delivered to customers.

The project is called Amazon Prime Air, and the 60 Minutes segment shows how it would work. Basically, remote octocopter drones pick up packages of up to five pounds at one of Amazon's many fulfillment centers. Each drone can fly up to 10 miles away from the center and deliver a package to a customer, navigating via an on-board GPS.

Bezos says even the small weight limit on the Amazon Prime Air drones will be able to handle the majority of packages that the company ships. The drones are powered by electricity so that cuts down on gas costs and even if one of the eight blades fails in flight, the drone can still make it to its destination. The idea is that if you happen to live near an Amazon warehouse, you could in theory order something and have the product delivered to you via the Amazon Prime Air drone in just 30 minutes.

So how long will we have to wait until this sci-fi delivery system out of "The Jetsons" become available? Bezos admits in the interview that Amazon Prime Air is still years away from getting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration but he claims that, optimistically, we could see these drones flying around and delivering all sorts of things in four or five years.

The 60 Minutes segment also briefly looked into Amazon's secret gadget labs in California, where the company is working on future products. Rose asked Bezos if Amazon is working on a set-top box for streaming video content, as has been highly rumored, but Bezos would not comment, saying only "Stay tuned."

Source: CBS News | Images via CBS News

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61 Comments

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Amazon better utilize military grade gps if they plan on using this. Every gps/map system for the public I've used almost always has the address wrong by one or two houses.

This seems farfetched to me. Where will the thing land and guarantee safety? Thievery will sky-rocket for these devices if they are as small as what I've seen of the models. People will be taking potshots at them. What about the weather? Too many things can go wrong. Not feasible as I see it.

Are people really this lazy? Or do they really need an item that quickly? If they do, why not go to a brick & mortar store.
If we must have this, I think a better solution is just pick-up points. Amazon can use their crazy copters to fly it to a pick-up point. Easier for Amazon and not a far trip for people (within a mile of home perhaps).
While I have bought my share of things on-line I try to support local stores when I can, since that means jobs. This idea just takes away jobs.

My predication is this is a publicity stunt for a new direct delivery service using trucks like the grocery service. They stoke the fires with some off the wall headline grabbing thing and then everyone will print the press release about the real service.

amazon.co.uk also want to use London Underground ticket booths for drop off returns.

Problem is the ticket booths are never open.

Well of the time they're not.

Hello,

Like mentioned there are SOOO many flaws with this. I find it hard to imagine.

Google's self drived car will problably happen first if govs agree to it and settle on a standard.

I'm sure they have already discussed "Amazon Drone Hunting" internally before they even put real money into development. This would require a lot of law changes. Pay attention to the lobbying on this.

jasqid said,
I'm sure they have already discussed "Amazon Drone Hunting" internally before they even put real money into development. This would require a lot of law changes. Pay attention to the lobbying on this.

Well..there is no practicality in this delivery method. If you haven't noticed..Jeff Bezos has been all over the news with all these ideas he is coming up with.

It's all just to keep his company in the news and having people talk about his company. Best advertisements money can buy...or in the news world..it's free advertising.

Well..it has in big bright letters..

AMAZON PRIME AIR

If anyone sees those letters flying over their house...might as well take a pot shot at it...maybe something valuable in that tote.

Well I thought about this, overnight.
L.B.C. mentioned it on the news via Lisa Aziz.
If the drone comes to my home, I am keeping it.
Possession is nine tenths of the law apparently.

Atomic Wanderer Chicken said,
I foresee Amazon drone hunting becoming the trend

Unless they equip their drones with some sort of defense mechanism. remind me of a movie...

Will never happen.
Governments won't give permission and in Britain 98% of amazon.co.uk customers
live more than 10 miles from the centres.
Amazon warehouses are well away from the high street or built up areas, they're huge warehouses 50 times bigger than airplane hangers.

leesmithg said,
Will never happen.
Governments won't give permission and in Britain 98% of amazon.co.uk customers
live more than 10 miles from the centres.
Amazon warehouses are well away from the high street or built up areas, they're huge warehouses 50 times bigger than airplane hangers.

Not sure about 2015 like Amazon are saying but something like this is highly likely, just probably not in our life time.

I don't see this working out. There are way too many errors in the various GPS services for accurate location of a particular address. For example, if you punch in the address to my old apartment in Washington, Google maps puts an arrow right in the middle of the road next to the entrance, so my package would either get ran over, or stolen by somebody else if I wasn't standing there waiting. Maybe if they set up designated arrival points; say have them deliver all packages to a landing pad of some sort at the main office of apartment buildings.

expect more incidents such as air crashes. or amazon customers getting their heads lobbed off by chopper blades at home.

There are laws against flying anything unmanned without being able to have direct line of sight, automated or not. The only exception is for the military.

M4x1mus said,
Oh is it not illegal to shoot down aircraft in the US? /s

Plenty of stuff is illegal but who does that stop??

Nope. Pretty sure its still illegal before they get caught and you would be very likely to be caught..

Think about it for a second. These things will likely have cameras and will be flying only 10 miles from the Amazon warehouse. They will likely only serve densely populated areas (as this is where they would be most profitable) and guns are loud. You would have a much better chance of getting away with say... stealing a car, which would also be more valuable than most things carried by these drones.

After flying RC planes for years, I think the local airspace would get a little crowded with drones and the signals that control them. It will be a great idea until somebody runs one into power lines, birds, trees, bridges or buildings, cars, the neighbors dog.

Let me count the ways to mess with a drone:
Screw with the RF that controls the drone
Screw with GPS signal locating the drone
Guns. Lots do guns.
Nets. Big nets.
Friggin Lasers.
Tie ropes around them and attach a kite.
Tasers, bro!
Big fans to run them into the neighbors lawn.
A long stick to knock them around.

Give me more time and beer, and I could probably fill a small book on ways to mess with a delivery drone.

Fail scenario 1: Drone approaches drop point. "Attention Amazon customer! Item # 19278, Hitachi wand massager is ready to be accepted by you at the entrance of your home. Please authenticate your Amazon PIN for item # 19278, Hitachi wand massager!"

Fail scenario 2: Your package was lost in a drone crash over a populated area. You receive and email from Amazon customer service. "Dear Amazon customer, unfortunately, you package, item #129645, genuine Jenna Jameson molded vagina has been lost due to a drone malfunction near you home. Please note that Amazon respects your privacy, and that no credit card or account info is present in the packaging, only the name and address of the drone's destination is marked on the packaging. Thank you for your patience. We will send a replacement item in the next 3-4 hours. Hold tight! -Amazon account management.

(lol, WP8 predicted I wanted "Jameson" after typing "Jenna". That is awesome!

I guess they won't be delivering during rainy/snowy days either. I think it's a marketing stunt, it's too impractical.

Really? You don't think the ability to order something and have it almost instantly will catch on? Ooook then....

What makes you think they won't be able to fly in the rain or snow? Helicopters don't seem to have any difficulty.

M4x1mus said,
Really? You don't think the ability to order something and have it almost instantly will catch on? Ooook then....

What makes you think they won't be able to fly in the rain or snow? Helicopters don't seem to have any difficulty.


The whole point of this is to get to people faster, therefore needed to be mass produced, and the materials need to be lightweight and cheap as well as quiet. That material would be plastic as opposed to metal, therefore more flimsy and harder to close the gaps = not water proof. Besides a real helicopter doesn't have 4 propellers and an electric motor, it has a gas one.

M4x1mus said,
Really? You don't think the ability to order something and have it almost instantly will catch on? Ooook then....

We already have that ability. It's called a courier service. In the low end mass market, it would more likely be Amazon trucks just like their grocery test market stuff.

timster said,
so, who's up for target practice?

Felony destruction of property today... and probably a federal offense by time this rolls out.

Flying aircraft at low altitude over residential areas is already a federal offense. It would be the same as that other company that tried this that they can only do remote rural locations.

I was thinking the same thing...just how long will it be before a kid with a pellet gun takes it out and steals the box. The drone will have GPS so there's no use in stealing that unless you can disable it quick enough.

Spicoli said,
Flying aircraft at low altitude over residential areas is already a federal offense.

This is about a few years from now, not today. It's not legal today, but may be next year. But before it's even feasible, laws also have to be written to protect the aircraft themselves.

Kalint said,
December Fools!

It's real, and the original story is also several months old regarding Amazon specifically.

Using automated drone delivery has been in R&D for a few years in some companies. Pneumatic tubes without a tube.