In 2013 Jeff Bezos promised delivery drones within five years. Six years later, Amazon’s CEO Worldwide Consumer, Jeff Wilke, is claiming that the company’s drones will be delivering packages to customers within ‘months’.
The news comes hot off the back of Amazon’s re:MARS event in Las Vegas at the beginning of June this year. The company took their time to show off the latest iteration of the drone: the ‘MK27’. The drone now features more advanced AI and computer vision systems than previous models, allowing it be fully autonomous and adapt to various challenging weather conditions.
The most noticeable design change from the previous iteration is the way in which the drone can now take off vertically, like a helicopter, but fly horizontally, like a plane. This allows the drone to have six aspects of motion, as opposed to the standard four afforded to more common modes of flying transportation – an attribute that Amazon claims will make the drone even more capable of handling severe weather conditions.
The delay in getting these things to market is largely due to the restrictions regulation puts on operating drones in civilian airspace – but this is something Amazon has finally been able to crack in the US, and hopes to start deliveries within the coming months.
This is all very cool but what does it mean for business, manufacturing, and technology?
It matters quite a lot. Amazon’s drones have a 15-mile range, can carry up to 2.2kg in weight, and can delivery products in 30 minutes from clicking buy. This could revolutionise the way people buy and consume goods on the internet and on the high street.
One of the few benefits the high street has over online shopping is the immediacy it affords shoppers. With delivery times of just 30 minutes, however, even this facet of physical shops will be severely challenged.
All this new technology is likely to impact other sectors as well. Lightweight and space-efficient packaging will need to be considered, given the space and weight restrictions of the drones. Distribution channels might need to be reassessed to ensure the availability of high-demand products within a 15-mile range of major delivery hot-spots. Furthermore, airspace restrictions will likely need reassessing, as drone delivery becomes the norm for more and more people worldwide.
And this speaks nothing of the jobs that will soon be threatened by the technology. Why employ a human to deliver your goods when they might fall asleep or get distracted and cause a crash, or slack off on the job and cause inefficiencies? Surely employing a drone that will simply do the job better is the obvious option for any company to take, provided the tech becomes more accessible in the future.
Taking the idea to its logical conclusion, if delivery drones mean the end of grounded delivery vehicles, how will this impact our roads and cities? Goods transportation accounts for about 20% of all traffic in the UK, and more so in cities, so the alleviation of all these excess cars could lead to more efficient roads and less traffic in cities.
It’s a lot to think about for sure.
At Polestar seeing disruptive technology such as these proposed certainly piques our interest. We look forward to seeing how Amazon’s plans come to fruition and transfer across to other business sectors.
The drones will be able to fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes. While that may sound like a light load, Wilke said that between 75 and 90% of Amazon deliveries could technically be handled by the drone