Are you ready for a future in which unmanned drones come from the sky to deliver you products you ordered less than a half hour ago? I hope so, because that future is very close. At least Amazon hopes it is.
Do you like the idea of drones delivering products to your home? Share your thoughts in the comments.
The service is called Amazon Prime Air, and the company pretty much has it ready to go, pending FAA regulations. As long as April Fool's Day didn't come four months early, Amazon appears to be serious. The company has been working on it in its R&D lab. Here's the test flight footage that shows what we're looking at.
I like how the guy at the end seems disinterested that there's a drone leaving him a package.
"Putting Prime Air into commercial use will take some number of years as we advance technology and wait for the necessary FAA rules and regulations," says Amazon. "It looks like science fiction, but it's real. From a technology point of view, we'll be ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is actively working on rules for unmanned aerial vehicles."
"One day, Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today," the company says in the Amazon Prime Air FAQ. "We hope the FAA's rules will be in place as early as sometime in 2015. We will be ready at that time."
CEO Jeff Bezos, admitted, however, that it could be four or five years.
The company notes that the FAA's rules would prioritize public safety.
"Safety will be our top priority, and our vehicles will be built with multiple redundancies and designed to commercial aviation standards," Amazon says.
If Amazon Prime Air becomes a reality, we have to believe many other company's will follow suit. Including Amazon's competitors. It's hard to imagine that Google, for example, won't offer up some competition, especially considering that it's already in the autonomous vehicle business, and is already looking to compete with Amazon and eBay and quick deliveries with Google Shopping Express.
Amazon is hardly the first company to experiment with delivery-by-drone. It was only a few months ago that we were talking about Domino's Pizza testing its DomiCopter.
But this is Amazon we're talking about. Just think about the amount of business that takes place on Amazon every day. Friday saw $1.198 billion in desktop ecommerce in the U.S. alone. Amazon was the top ranked site among 66.1 million shoppers. And that's just from the desktop.
The early drones will be somewhat limited, according to Bezos, in that they can only carry packages under five pounds, and can only carry them up to ten miles away from a fulfillment center, but there's no reason to think that they won't get better as time goes on if this whole thing really comes to fruition. Of course, much of where things go will rely on the regulations set forth by the FAA.
According to Bezos, 86% of Amazon's packages are under the five-pound weight limit.
Meanwhile, Amazon continues to give users more reason to become Prime members. The company is even going head to head Netflix (or HBO and other cable networks for that matter) with original television content, and it's all about getting more Prime members. You have to be a member to watch Amazon's original shows (at least past the first few complimentary episodes).
Amazon also continues to rapidly expand its fulfillment center operations. News of a new Connecticut location just came out a couple weeks ago, and that was preceded with a similar announcement for Wisconsin earlier in the month.
Who knows? Maybe Amazon's drones can keep people from having to run out for another bottle of wine, and prevent some accidents and DUIs. Maybe they'll deliver newspapers. It would certainly be convenient to have your Amazon Fresh groceries delivered in less than 30 minutes by a drone, no?
Even more revolutionary than Sunday deliveries.
Some think the drones even have potential in B2B.
Christopher Mims at Quartz makes an interesting point comparing Prime Air to Amazon Web Services: "If Amazon can become the first company with significant resources to invest in consumer drones, it could corner the market on cheap unmanned aerial vehicles the way it’s cornering the market on cheap computing power."
Naturally, the whole Amazon Prime Air concept has been met with some skepticism and of course parody. Good ol' Taiwanese animation studio NMA covers both pretty well:
Someone has also set up a parody Twitter account for one of the drones:
What do you think? Do you expect delivery-by-drone to become a normal part of life, or is this something we're going to be laughing about one day? Let us know what you think.