delivery by drone coming!

  1. jtbell

    Staff: Mentor

    On the CBS "60 Minutes" program tonight, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos showed reporter Charlie Rose a prototype of their "Octocopter" drone which is intended to deliver packages directly from a fulfillment center to a customer's doorstep:

    Amazon unveils futuristic plan: Delivery by drone

    This service would provide a 30-minute delivery time to addresses within (IIRC) ten miles from a fulfillment center.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Borek

    Staff: Mentor

    LOL, my first thought was "have you ordered a Hellfire missile"?
  4. rcgldr

    rcgldr 7,692
    Homework Helper

    Fully automated GPS multi-rotor drones have been around in the radio control hobby industry for a while now. With a mounted camera, the drones can also be flown via a first person view using a tablet or laptop to see live feed. There's an issue with the FAA and AMA (American Model Association) on how to legislate these devices. As mentioned in the video (at least the one from 60 minutes), in addition to concern about these devices being used as weapons, there's also the issue of a malfunction causing a model to drop onto property or a person causing damage or harm.

    Example video from a local flying site (note no audio on this one)
  5. Borg

    Borg 1,397
    Gold Member

    Is that anything like the delivery by artillery service? Delivery guarenteed within 30 seconds or less. Not responsible for breakage.

    Amazon isn't the only one to think of this. Domino's pizza did a test in the UK in July.

    Textbooks in Sydney. I like this one because it delivers based on your cell phone's GPS coordinates!

    Deliveries might be difficult in some areas though - town considers drone hunting licenses.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2013
  6. Borg

    Borg 1,397
    Gold Member

    Well that didn't take long.

  7. Greg Bernhardt

    Staff: Admin

    It would clear up the roads, but just crowd the skies. Cities would be unbearable with the buzzing of drones.
  8. Borg

    Borg 1,397
    Gold Member

    I never heard of the book so he doesn't need to 'improve' his image in my case or, I suspect, in the case of many others who haven't heard of it either. He succeed in generating a heck of a lot of buzz about Amazon on Cyber Monday - it's been all over the news, blogs, memes, etc. Yes, it's all about timing and the art of the sale. That sounds like a CEO who is doing his job right.

    I find it hilarious that the book that he's supposedly trying to distract everyone from is available on Amazon.
  9. Greg Bernhardt

    Staff: Admin

    What he's doing is playing us for dummies for a short term gain. Now that everyone realizes it's a stunt, he loses respect and credibility. Now anything interesting that is announced by Amazon is questioned, whether true or false. I don't think it was a good idea. Maybe on April Fools though.
  10. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    Never heard of the book and I don't care. I have always had great service from Amazon. That link is also not acceptable.
  11. SteamKing

    SteamKing 10,960
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I'm just glad Amazon doesn't have access to JDAM technology which they could use to put your book or package delivery right down your chimney.
  12. Borg

    Borg 1,397
    Gold Member

    The problem with marketing is that most people do behave like dummies. Take the case of JC Penny - retailers purposely mark up items so that they can 'discount' them because people like to think that they've gotten a bargain. JCP tried to price their items without the smoke and mirrors and their sales (and stock) have tanked as a result. They've been forced to go back to the same old game or risk going out of business. Waving an interesting idea like flying package delivery and not following through isn't much different. To me it's like waving a feather at a cat - sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

    While writing about JCP, I was reminded of a similar story in Detroit in the 80's. There was a store (Hudson's) that had a "bargain basement". One of the local news stations did an investigative report on the bargains. They tracked several items as they made their way from the main floors to the basement. In most cases, the items were marked with much higher 'original' prices and given 'discounts' that ended up costing the customers even more than when they were being sold on the main floor. Their bargain basement was their biggest profit maker until the news story ran.

    Back to the original post, I think that Amazon would follow though with drone delivery within a few years if the FAA wasn't in the way. Bezos says he's going to follow through and maybe he really intends to. After seeing how much time and effort Google has put into driverless cars, drone delivery doesn't seem impossible for a company with deep pockets. Maybe the regulation hurtles will eventually be too great and Bezos will have to cut his losses. If he doesn't deliver on his promise, will anyone go back to see why he didn't (i.e. regulation difficulties vs. no itention to follow through)? I doubt that anyone will even remember. Would he publicly announce his failure to the world? I'm even more doubtful of that.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2013
  13. My team uses a small drone for documentary film production -- they are very effective and safe if used properly. They are very quiet and non-obtrusive, especially relative to a big diesel delivery van.

    Bezos said any delivery by drones is years in the future. However he's smart enough to recognize the potential and start working on it now.

    The technical issues are definitely solvable for some usage profiles. They would use redundant differential (e.g ground-augmented) GPS which is accurate to a few inches. They'd also have fall-back inertial guidance. They'd also need proximity sensing based on image recognition or other sensor methods to check for obstructions. All that is doable with current technology, and in five years time it will be cheaper and more available.

    They would likely only be used in specific areas which are surveyed and safe from a flight path standpoint. Trucks would not suddenly be replaced by swarms of drones -- it would be a very gradual "learn as you go" phased implementation, starting in highly controlled conditions.

    Some of the doubts I've seen are far more ill-conceived than the Amazon drone concept itself. E.g,:

    "What if somebody watched the drone delivery, then stole the package?" What if they watched the truck then stole the package?

    "What if they get shot down?" These would be used in fairly high density residential areas. If people start shooting guns in their back yards at drones (or anything else), they'll quickly be educated that's not a good idea.

    "What if they fall on someone?" That's not outlandish since Bezos himself voiced it. One answer is redundancy, but of course accidents will happen -- just like they do with delivery trucks. These are small, lightweight drones and the ratio of package mass to surface area implies it might not be that damaging.

    "How will the FAA air traffic control system cope?" They would likely not be under FAA control, but fly below controlled airspace.

    "What if U.S. regulations don't allow it?" Amazon is a global retailer and would likely use drones in regions with less burdensome regulations. This already happens with film production. Currently there is no legal way to fly a commercial filming drone within the U.S. -- nobody can do it, not even Steven Spielberg. They simply take their business overseas and film it there.

    "What if the drone spies on me?" Every phone call you make, nearly every email you send and every web site you visit is already intercepted, analyzed and data mined by government agencies. People in general are not revolting over that, they somehow just accept it. The surveillance capability of a little battery-powered drone is miniscule relative to what is already happening.
  14. jtbell

    Staff: Mentor

  15. jhae2.718

    jhae2.718 1,152
    Gold Member

    There's a larger issue with the concept as shown. A quad lacks the range and payload for it to be a cost-effective delivery solution on a large scale.
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