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Amazon Eyes Drone Deliveries

by Brendan McGarry on December 3, 2013


First Domino’s, now Amazon.

Earlier this year, Domino’s Pizza made headlines when, as part of a marketing campaign in the United Kingdom, it released a video of a drone called the Domicopter delivering a pizza.

Earlier this week, Amazon​.com did the same when, during an interview with Charlie Rose on the CBS show “60 Minutes,” it unveiled a video of a so-called octocopter — an unmanned, GPS-guided craft with eight electric rotors — delivering a small package as part of a research and development project called Amazon Prime Air.

“I know this looks like science fiction,” Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said during the interview, as a screen showed one of the devices grabbing a box from the assembly line, taking off and flying out of the building, then setting it down in the front yard of a residential home. “It’s not.”

The technology is still at least four to five years away and, as currently conceived, isn’t designed for big packages, Bezos said. “It won’t work for everything,” he told Rose. “We’re not going to deliver kayaks or table saws this way.”

Still, the Seattle-based online retailer could use the drones to offer 30-minute deliveries for products weighing as much as five pounds — which covers 86 percent of the items it ships, Bezos said. The current generation of aerial vehicles can fly a 10-mile radius from fulfillment centers, or giant distribution warehouses, he said.

While some have dismissed Amazon’s announcement as a publicity stunt perfectly timed for Cyber Monday, others say unmanned systems are poised to revolutionize the way we shop, just like they have with how we fight war.

“Drones hold the promise of companies anticipating our every need and delivering without human involvement,” Tim Draper, the founder of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, recently told Bloomberg News. “Everything from pizza delivery to personal shopping can be handled by drones.”

The Federal Aviation Administration is crafting guidelines for integrating unmanned systems into the national airspace by 2015.

Once that happens, adopting the devices for domestic use may increase the U.S. economy by at least $13.6 billion within three years, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, or AUVSI, an industry lobbying group.

But thorny legal issues remain. For example, what kinds of flights would constitute a trespass? Would overhead flights impair the enjoyment of personal property? Couldn’t drones with powerful surveillance sensors, cameras and imaging systems easily violate someone’s privacy?

Perhaps the Defense Department or the Central Intelligence Agency might someday be interested in getting deliveries from Amazon Prime Air. After all, the CIA is already buying cloud-based computing infrastructure from the company as part of its Amazon Web Services to store government data and run agency websites.

“We’re building what’s called a private cloud for them,” Bezos said,” because they don’t want to be on the public cloud.”

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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

oblatt2 December 3, 2013 at 1:03 pm
EW3 December 3, 2013 at 2:31 pm

yup. But notice how much the gullible suck it up like a Hoover deluxe.


Howe December 4, 2013 at 12:28 am

Yeah, It's good PR & free advertising, but it's all true.

Drones are quickly coming to the market, The cost of them is going down, and reliability is going up. Pizza & packages WILL get delivered by drones, and it's only a few years away from reality.


oblatt2 December 4, 2013 at 5:06 am

Yea so is the flying car.

The technology for drones has existed for a long time the fact that better motors and batteries make the low end more affordable is irrelevant. These are problems where price are not the issue.


Greg Donovan December 3, 2013 at 3:19 pm

As my friends are saying….skeet shooting with prizes.


El Paladin December 5, 2013 at 1:03 am

Ho Ho Ho! That is rich! He/She who drops the most plunder,…wins! Sure beats all those expensive, computer games, while giving us old war horses needed exercise. When/where can we start?? El Paladin


Realist December 3, 2013 at 3:28 pm

This is the dumbest thing I've heard of since the nuclear powered bomber.


mpower6428 December 3, 2013 at 7:11 pm

HEY, that would have worked, well…. if they could have figure out how to stop it.


Kim Scholer December 4, 2013 at 8:31 am

Yeah, what's wrong with a cool atomic powered bomber? It works for spacecrafts….


blight_ December 4, 2013 at 10:58 am

Radiation shielding was so heavy that it cut into payload and imposed a severe lower-limit on the size of the aircraft that could carry it.

The nuclear-powered aircraft substituted heat generated from combustion with reactor heat. More power would require pushing the limits of heat output, which would in turn require serious radiation shielding…a death spiral that couldn't be conquered in the early days.

FYI: "Atomic spacecrafts" were low-power applications using RTG's. You could probably power Flyer One or an ultralight with an RTG (but not without killing the pilot slowly), but not a fighter jet or a bomber.


Andy December 3, 2013 at 3:40 pm

If that motors are made in China I don't want that Drone near by my house.


Some dude December 3, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Imagine the youtube videos…nevermind people walking and texting, and falling into things…now there will be things flying around…somebody walking out in the open on their cell phone, not situationally aware enough of their surroundings to move out of the way before one of these things runs into them…


Tech Guy December 3, 2013 at 4:37 pm

"the technology is four to five years out" in tech talk = Its not gonna happen but it'll get me some attention.


Bob B. December 3, 2013 at 4:57 pm

If sufficient care isn't taken to proper & effective regulation on this; then I can envision some tragic horror stories coming about, as has happened with computerization & other technological developments brought into private use.


Tom Billings December 3, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Being human means having tragic horror as a part of life. We are not half-way between the apes and the angels. We are species of large obstreperously violent primates. All the huge amount of regulation of autos does not stop daily tragedy and horror. At least with these machines some of those trips to Walgreens for milk will be replaced by a UAV that masses at most 1/10th of the car,

As with other things today, people will demand perfect safety from a new device, only to find that fools still have the upper hand in finding new ways to screw it and themselves up.


anon December 5, 2013 at 11:03 pm
Jon December 5, 2013 at 7:31 am

yea like the affordable care act.


mpower6428 December 3, 2013 at 7:12 pm

who's gonna be the first to knock one of these things down with a wrist-rocket…?


Tom Billings December 3, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Someone opening themselves to a lawsuit by being seen in the cameras these will be required to use by the FAA, with recording on a 1 hour loop. Avoidance of other flying objects is still the FAA's biggest demand, and any system smart enough to avoid something else flying will be using a 360 degrees imaging system as the barest start of a sensing system for its navigation. The FAA will demand *any* impact, or near miss, be recorded, with time position etc. being continuosly logged.


hibeam December 3, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Obama will replace the drones with catapults. Union catapults.


Dr. Horrible December 3, 2013 at 10:59 pm



CanadianEh! December 3, 2013 at 10:44 pm

This is going to last all of three minutes…if that! Consider the ease of theft and insurance requirements. A few people will shoot these things out of the sky, some product will be lost and they will go back to using just trucks. Or better yet, each delivery comes with a squad of attack drones, delivery guaranteed. They should call it skynet!


jamesb December 3, 2013 at 11:03 pm

The Amazon Rollout was a Joke, Right?


TheResistance December 3, 2013 at 11:54 pm

To get through FAA requirements, maybe they will need to apply procedural separation methods. So Amazon can have the time block 1am to 2am for deliveries, Walmart 2am to 3am etc.
Of course this will require a curfew to prevent people from being in the way at those times, with terminator drones to enforce it.


westwood December 4, 2013 at 6:02 am

Moronic idea. A sign that Amazon has reached its peak. Time for decline.


Austin December 4, 2013 at 8:33 am

What about thievery? Will that occur? Shoot-downs by silly people playing and shooting them down for fun, interefering with the deliveries? Exploding them with shotguns, etc.


El Paladin December 5, 2013 at 1:27 am

It will be all part of the game, Austin. Plus we all need a diversion from the Obama drivel. Think of it as Hunger Games: You're laid-off by the new, 2014 EPA rules, and Red China, Obama had cancelled your health care anyway, the repo dude yanked your ride off the driveway last night, and the only grocery is too far to hump it. You see this 'thing' about to buzz your yard, sporting a case of Big Macs,..w/ cheese. You suddenly recall Dad' s 12 guage, secured from kids, but an easy grap, there in the shed. One round in the chamber. Now are you 'lucky',…or what?


Austin December 4, 2013 at 8:35 am

Hacking drones and redirecting them elsewhere?


charliedog December 4, 2013 at 10:32 am

I can see it now. A new game to see who can land the most drones in their back yard.


hibeam December 4, 2013 at 10:24 am

Electricity usage in America is actually on the decline due to energy efficient light bulbs. These things could replace fat guys in SUVs. It's all good.


dubweiser101 December 4, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Will these drones be delivering Hellfire's right to our doorsteps?


Crazyalbear December 4, 2013 at 9:50 pm

All joking aside, the GPS system needs to be more accurate before this happens. When I do a search on my home address it's shown down the block and in the middle of an intersection. Bad place for any package to end up.


teh surge December 6, 2013 at 7:22 am

Like the Seattle city-wide wireless mesh network surveillance system that allows government to track every moving object in an entire city.

This is not Amazon offering to wire the city like ATT wired cities for the newfangled Bell talky system .. Amazon wants taxpayers to pay for infrastructure -you buy they fly!


Amazon Rocket Delivery December 5, 2013 at 10:51 pm
Sean December 9, 2013 at 3:28 am

It looks like a flying BBQ


SomeDude December 9, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Now there's an idea!


oral hygiene products January 6, 2014 at 7:52 pm
voyager January 14, 2014 at 4:51 am
Caryn February 22, 2014 at 7:34 am

At this point, the complete avoidance of gluten is the treatment. Pour your sauce over the dry toasted ingredients in the bowl.


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