A small regional airport is taken over by Amazon. They build hangars and warehouses onsite.
It's ramped up to land and fly a big turbine-powered mothership every five minutes. The warehouse dispatches packages to stacks of delivery drones like the one pictured in the video. The mothership loads the delivery drones in order. The motherships take off regularly, and then as the mothership flies near the target swath, the drones are released one by one and glide to the target zone efficiently before doing a vertical landing.
Empty, they return autonomously to a small recovery facility in a vacant lot somewhere within ~5km. They're packed into a pickup or a semi and returned to the airfield in stacks.
Because VTOL flight is not easy to do at long ranges; Batteries generally limit that to 10-30 minutes since vehicle mass fraction is large. Because very small planes are only a small multiple (2-5x) more efficient than VTOL flight. Because high speeds are something vehicles like this are not great at.
A drone like this doesn't have a great straight-line range when you sling a heavy load under it; Amazon is not going to erect sizable warehouses within ~5km of every plausible delivery. Their stock is too large, and too sparsely ordered.
Or, even more likely?
Replace the flying mothership with a box truck dispenser. The driver stops at his target neighborhood, sends the drones out, they deliver autonomously, takes the drones back in 10 minutes later, and returns to regional warehouse in the next 20-50 minutes of driving, for 30 to 60 minute delivery.
Amazon gets to deliver to a neighborhood rather than to a house.
If you notice, both video examples show the drone delivering at a house. It seems obvious that an urban setting is difficult to address. And actually delivery costs are higher in the suburbs, due to population spread, than in the cities.
The interesting thing is how do UPS/FedEx/USPS feel about this, considering that Amazon is aiming to "evolve" their business model? We should soon hear about FedEx/UPS trying to do drone delivery. But this is not only logistics but also a lot of other software and I think Amazon might be better suited for it.
What if Amazon soon will develop the AWS-of-postal-delivery infrastructure?!
UPS/FedEx/USPS can feel whatever they want but there's not a darn thing they can do about it.
Also, I'll point out that in my area of suburbia, UPS/Fedex sometimes deliver to USPS and let USPS do the last mile. it's not hard to imagine they'd deliver to an amazon base station where robots & drones would take over.
The soccer shoe emergency can't really be that big of a market. Emergency medicine by drone delivery I get, but the reason people go shopping nowadays is either grocery or an excuse to get out of the house.
Drones are never going to eliminate the excuse to get out of the house factor.
Surely they could just walk down to their local video rental store, not that many people really need to watch something right now!
But once something like BitTorrent & Netflix happens it becomes the new expectation. I think something like drone delivery or delivery via autonomous vehicles is going to similarly change the market for the delivery of physical goods.
I don't want to think whether I will need something near the end of the week. We throw big words like nothing but I concede this is one of the hard problems where the idea of express shipping (drones, land robots, or even delivery humans) in conjunction with large distribution networks could have profound impact on the way we shop.
While the distribution warehouse infrastructure of Walmart is probably nothing to laugh at, I imagine a large portion of the infrastructure is not centrally owned and managed by Walmart. Just like the famous "the network is the computer" motto, I bet Amazon thinks the warehouse infrastructure is the retail store.
(To go a little off-topic, the physical Amazon.com book shop sounds strange to me. I don't get it.)
I have a fear we're on the way to creating a whole class of people who are totally dependent on the system for everything. There will always be people who are well rounded and know the relationships between things (i.e. know where the sausage comes from)
All the problems with having these things today are implementation problems not fundamental issues.
Or, your objections would have been valid against the railroad and the telegraph as well (both of those reduced friction tremendously).
I get the gist of what you're saying, but I don't agree that artificially limiting technological innovation, or improvements in efficiencies is beneficial at all.
The objection I have is more with the psychology rather than the physicality of it. It makes things more disposable. You lost a sneaker, we get it replaced in minutes. It's allowing people to gorge on consumerism. It also puts the local shops at a disadvantage. But, mostly, it removes the barrier to thinking about buying more. You don't have to think about waiting till tomorrow, or two days from now, or having to walk twenty minutes, or get out and take transit, or jump into a car to go satiate the impulse. No, all you need is your desire (and buying power) and it's fulfilled.
By the time it was delivered, I had already found my long-lost extension cable and didn't need it anymore.
Waste of money and—to your point—if I didn't have that option I probably would have searched a little more around the house before resorting to buying a new one.
Ultimately I still want to see these things advance, though. Whatever mechanism that would set lower bounds on delivery times would be worse than the problem it would be intended to prevent.
 Never mind why the TV only outputs audio on a 3.5mm jack, kinda cheap.
Neonatal supplies, cleaning supplies, you name it -- the sort of thing you really don't want to shop for, it's bulky and you never know if you're getting the right brand: if you could order it from a bookmark, knowing you'll have it in 60 minutes, then the actual shopping experience would become much more fun, because you can actually pay attention only to the funky meals you'll cook and the new stuff you can try.
And of course, geeks would jump on this like crazy -- 60-minute deliveries for new hard disks, mice, games and any other soho/gaming equipment? I would sign in blood ink right now.
I have my doubts the drone model can scale (for example, in Manchester, UK today we had 80mph gale winds...), but it's an awesome idea that would definitely change retail.
How running cost scales with drones' range? If it's also quadratic or worse then there is no reason to increase it.
I suppose the flying altitude should be outside te air gun range, with descent right naivete landing spot.
If drones do get shot down, I'm sure Amazon will eventually deploy escort drones that sense where the shots come from. lol...
Drone is a smaller than amazon's but it's a good demonstration
I can see an arms race between Amazon and would-be air-pirates; I honestly don't know what the state of the art in radar technology is, but if it can be drone-mounted, then you'll need something seriously fast to hit an intelligently-dodging vehicle.
As for hitting an intelligently-dodging vehicle - ever tried to throw a stick at a pigeon? I obviously don't recommend doing that, though I have some personal experience from the time when I was 9 years old, and I can tell you that suckers are damn good at avoiding projectiles. I doubt drones will reach that level of performance within next year or three, so for now, if you have something you could hit a pigeon with, you'll definitely be able to take a drone down with it.
Where I live is probably high enough density to make this idea work, but there's not enough landing space I think:
It's pretty much 4 carbon fibre lawnmower blades thrashing around in the air. I'm not getting anywhere near close enough to remove a payload from one while it's attempting to keep a stationary hover in an area of poor gps reception.
I'm reasonably careless with my little quads (~350g with 5 inch plastic props spun by 220W motors), but my medium sized one (~800g) gets treated with much more respect. I've got a friend with a 5+kg Octocopter - it's got 2+kW motors spinning 18 inch carbon fibre blades, I don't get within 4 or 5 meters of that when it's powered up and armed (and I'm extremely wary of it when it's got power connected but isn't "armed", because that's really just trusting Chinese electronics and open source software to not chop my fingers off...)
It might require more advanced designs, far better tested and well regulated software but being able to get that close to a drone would enable a lot more use cases for them. I think many people are going to invest quite a lot of money into making this possible, so I think we're going to see something like this eventually, even if it takes decades.
It seems plausible that by the time (i.e. in a few years) Amazon gets regulatory support for its delivery drones in a suburban community that it'll have saturated urban delivery markets in the US and will be ready to build warehouses in the suburbs.
Seems like a longer wingspan is the simple answer, no?
longer wingspan means greater lift, allowing more payload, but also means more drag, and the additional payload and longer wings also increase the mass of the craft- leading to greater power requirements, which means more powerful motors, larger rotors, and larger batteries, which are also heavier.
The point is, drone/aircraft design and logistics like this cannot be solved with a simple answer like "longer wingspan".
How much longer? What about all the cascading effects on all the other aspects of the craft? This all needs to be addressed and optimized to be implemented properly.
Whether or not Amazon ever delivers packages with drones, the ROI on the drone R&D is massive simply based on how much attention it draws each year on cyber monday.
This drone stuff even feels like a distraction so that nobody notices what Amazon is actually up to. It's currently so far from useful, but it does generate a lot of PR for Amazon, and the timing is not at all subtle.
Most news stations in every country will probably tag this to the end of their broadcasts thus meaning millions saved in advertising for Amazon.
> We will deploy when and where we have the regulatory support needed to safely realize our vision.
*found the thread https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6833223
"This is just one idea. Perhaps Amazon provides you with a beacon for the drone, or you get a big QR code for the drone to target your house & they don't need pilots at all. Who knows!" -owenmarshall
1) If you can see over the fence...
2) If it shows up in Google Maps ;)
#2 might be implausible now, but if people get really accustomed to this, I guarantee that some handymen are going to tile/spraypaint large, permanent drop points in their yards.
If they ever come close to hitting the 30 minute delivery it also opens up the entire food delivery industry as a potential Amazon extension. Buying one of these "premade meal delivery" startups could also be an option.
This is my thinking as well. I'm actually surprised they haven't started a small project in a specific area where they're delivering hot meals. It feels like they want to, eventually, sell everything possible to people.
I would actually be surprised if they don't, eventually, buy several of these start-ups around prepared food delivery.
Delivery people, like cab/Uber drivers are service industries chugging along on borrowed time until their jobs can be fully automated.
And in this case vandals can easily be prosecuted, since a drone is already hooked up with remote control, GPS tracking, cameras and monitoring.
Along with several GPS devices on each drone, each with redundant power supplies.
And development in Israel? Wow!
You could also have fresh baked goods and produce economically delivered daily like they did back in the cutting edge of the 1800s.
I do see scenarios where drones make sense but I have a lot of trouble envisioning people being fine with the skies of suburbia being filled with drones all the time.
If they start crashing on my head during a picnic, I would be a little annoyed...
Economically and at scale, it seems like both the truck and drone are actually pretty cheap.
Speed of delivery and at scale, the only way the drone is faster is if there is a warehouse in each city and your item is stocked. Otherwise, the bottleneck in delivery time is the long distance shipping.
Feasibility and at scale, the truck seems way less risky and more adaptable to bad conditions.
Which sounds like an utterly horrifying scenario. It's not so much that I can't imagine this sort of delivery not working in some scenarios as that I have a lot of trouble imagining it working at scale.
in reality we'll never need to go anywhere anymore, not for work, not for meetings, not for a movie, and not for groceries. what's a city for anyway? Oh, nightclubs I guess...
My other issue with this is given changing weather conditions and the amount of wind or rain a drone can handle (energy efficiently that is) how many days per year can this service be offered vs. how many customers there actually are that need this type of delivery. (Note the example that they give ..)
> wind or rain
Obviously parachute delivery is more sensitive to weather conditions. Parachutes would need active guidance to be at all practical. If the parachutes and guidance systems aren't recoverable (collected from your mailbox, maybe?) that'll add to delivery costs.
You could either pick up your items yourself, or pickups could be handled via an "uber for packages" type model.
The advantage of a system like that would be how quickly it could change based on demand, and it would work well inside all the current shipping infrastructure.
The trick would be stocking the right items in the right locations, but if anyone has the data to be able to do that it's Amazon.
I'd say it's about 6 feet on a side, and maybe 4 feet tall.
So, if this takes off (phun intended) will Amazon try weather control next?
Apparently there are going to be a bunch of drones flying around delivering to people in the suburbs.
Looks very cool but in the real world so many things can go wrong, I am sure people are going to intercept and either damage or steal the drones.
But I also live near college student housing and they pretty much do something similar with their drinking and partying.
Just like UPS cannot leave packages for me here, I couldn't get drone delivery either.
Not everyone can afford or wants to live in suburbs.