Back in 2013, Jeff Bezos revealed the plan for Amazon Prime Air to the world. Three years later, Amazon has made its first successful drone delivery in the United Kingdom. Successful testing often leads to implementation, and unmanned, package-toting aircraft could be a common sight.
Amazon’s plan to conquer the skies is going swimmingly. Soon, the air may be filled with chapstick, exercise DVDs, underwear, and anything else that you could desire (as long as it is under 5 lbs).
As announced by Jeff Bezos, Amazon Prime Air drones have hit the skies as of December 7, 2016. Relax knowing that your purchasing power is being protected and delivered on by thousands of drones. At least, that solace may soon be here, as this flight was just one of many planned test flights for the program.the Amazon Prime Air force has hit the skies as of December 7, 2016Click To Tweet
Since the company first announced plans for the airborne service in 2013, the issue of sales tax promised to provide a ‘roadblock’ for Prime Air. As the U.S. wouldn’t foster the right environment for the launching of drones in urban areas, the company decided to take their beta and go to the U.K.
Two beta testers are currently handling the operation, and in a mere 20 minutes, the drones can take packages to these lucky customers from the Prime Air fulfillment center near Cambridge. The drones come almost entirely automated, with human hands being needed only for the selection process in their fulfillment centers.
Drone delivery brings new meaning to the phrase ‘air support’, but a leisurely flight over rural British scenery doesn’t necessarily mean that the technology is there to support delivery in urban and suburban areas.
Here Come the Drones
The mission report from the first flight provided details that it was a success, but the technology has a way to go before it is viable for mass implementation.
Amazon Prime Air drones are tested and thereby improving drones in areas all over the world. For example, their lab in Austria is focused on the technologies that will allow the drone to see and avoid objects, such as the skyscraper sitting between you and your copy of Game of Thrones.
One drawback to the idea, however, is that the destinations for packages in the U.S. range from houses to multi-dwelling structures. This factor raises the question of how exactly Prime Air is going to handle deliveries made to apartment complexes and office buildings.
The five-pound weight limit is also a mitigating factor for the initiative. Yet, with Amazon making millions of sales every day, there are still plenty of deliverable packages.
“No sane government wants thousands of drones constantly flooding its skies”
Whatever the proportion of deliveries that can be made by drones is, it likely represents an enormous amount of distributions, and this brings to light another substantial detriment to the Amazon Prime Air drones program. No sane government wants thousands of drones constantly flooding its skies so that people can get their new pairs of socks delivered straight from the fulfillment center to their doorstep.
Bureaucracy Could Still Ground Amazon Prime Air Drones
Sales tax isn’t the only impediment for Amazon Prime Air drones operating in the U.S. Now that the service is being deployed in other countries, it is important for the U.S. to establish federal drone regulations. Air traffic infrastructures need updating if we are going to see swarms of cardboard boxes flying safely through our skies.
Governments have a clear need to monitor air traffic for military and civilian use. As a result, the FCC and the FAA are sure to impede Prime Air until it can be sure that Amazon drones won’t pose a danger to other air traffic.
If Amazon Prime Air drones do well in other countries, then U.S. citizens are going to want their services as well. Regulating bodies should stay ahead of the issue to avoid falling behind.
Amazon had explicit permission from the U.K. government to perform their flights, and it will be interesting to see which location the next phase of testing will occur in.
One way or another, Amazon intends to offer drone delivery to its Prime customers, and they have plenty of work ahead of them to make that intention a reality. Their recent beta test is a positive sign. Soon our online purchases will be a lot like ordering pizza.