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In 2013, Jeff Bezos, the CEO and founder of Amazon Inc., made headlines when he proclaimed that within a few years, the company would deploy unmanned drones to deliver packages within 30 minutes after an order was placed. Since Amazon Prime Air was unveiled the night before “Cyber Monday,” skeptics dismissed it as a publicity stunt designed to draw attention to the company. It turns out they were wrong.
On December 7, 2016, Amazon revealed that it had completed its first Prime Air delivery in Cambridge, UK. The package, containing a bag of popcorn and an Amazon Fire TV, were loaded on to the unmanned vehicle from a local fulfillment center and delivered to a two-story farmhouse several miles away – all within 13 minutes after the items were bought!
The company also announced that the service is now available within the five-square-mile radius of the Cambridge area, seven days a week during daylight hours. The sparsely populated rural area, with few dozen residents scattered amidst vast swaths of farmland and fields, is perfect for testing the drones.
Unfortunately, even if the trial is wildly successful, many challenges still remain before drone delivery becomes a reality for most of us. While the octocopters may do fine in rural areas, they remain untested in crowded urban cities where they would encounter obstacles like buildings or trees. There is also fear that the autonomous flying vehicles could injure people as they descend to drop their packages. The drones and their cargo are also susceptible to being taken down by vandals.
Then there are the delivery logistics. Amazon will not only have to ensure that every Prime Air customer has a special landing pad, but also come up with a feasible solution for apartment dwellers who do not have access to an open space where the drone can land. Hence, while Amazon Prime Air may someday be a reality, for now, we will just have to wait for two “long” days to receive our packages!
Resources: Amazon.com, endgadget.com