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Amazon Prime Air (amazon.com)
1412 points by wyclif on Dec 2, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 588 comments

(Disclaimer: I work for Amazon, but not for anything related to this. This is the first time I'm learning of Prime Air.)

I'm somewhat disheartened by the skepticism of a lot of comments from HN, Reddit, and Twitter. Not stuff like "I wonder how they'll handle adverse weather" (which I think is intellectually interesting) but stuff like "As soon as one of these kills a dog it's done for". What merit is there in rooting for failure for failure's sake? This feels like science fiction in the best way possible.

I have no idea whether or not this will work, but I sure hope it does. It's incredibly exciting.

What, just a story to make sure Amazon dominates the media on Cyber Monday? I'd say your analysis is bang on.

The lesson to learn here, folks, is that this is one of those themes that just keeps on giving. Any time you need some quick publicity, reach for a drone...

The fact that it's very obviously timed to give a PR boost doesn't mean it's fake. They may very well be working on this, hoping that it succeeds, and looking for a PR boost.

In fact, given that they were working on it, one would expect them to announce it when it would give the most positive buzz possible.

You sure get an award for being optimistic, but I shall have to take away any certification you may have for being realistic.

The smoking gun on this is announcing a new service on a Sunday evening. No-one does that. Unless, say, it happens to be Cyber Monday the next day.

This is exciting but a little too early for its time. Four months early to be specific.

So, in other words, you think that they're outright lying about doing any development?

Nope they are delusional about the 2015 timeline they talk about on their website

Helicopters (used for media coverage, passenger transport and medical emergency) provide the perfect template for the Aviation Authority and Amazon to base a framework of operation on.

The main considerations will be:

- Set routes/paths the drones must follow, taking I to account altitudes that minimise traffic with other things high up (buildings, aircraft, UFOs) - emergency procedures and a risk assessment for each foreseeable eventuality (not that hard considering the lack of other traffic 'up there') - limits on the amount of drones in the air within constrained geographic localities.

It is likely that this could all be agreed for a single trial city well before 2015 rolls around. This isn't rocket science...

I don't know about America but in the UK aviation authorities already permit flying models [1] and aerial work such as photography if certain requirements are met [2]. Regulators are understandably keen on collision avoidance, so they usually say UAVs must stay within the operator's line of sight - or have a 'sense and avoid' system. The UK's CAA "is not currently aware of any Sense-and-Avoid system with adequate performance and reliability" [3]

So, that's the regulatory challenge. Need to sense and avoid obstacles and other aircraft, and do a good enough job of it that aviation authorities will sign off on it.

(In addition to the regulatory challenge, there may also be business, operational and engineering challenges.)

[1] http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=1416&pageid=8153 [2] http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=1995&pageid=11213 [3] http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=1995&pageid=11186

Am I in the minority in thinking this is fantastic marketing? If you were Amazon, why wouldn't you leverage an interesting R&D project on the eve of your biggest day of the year? Regardless of how pie-in-the-sky this might be, I don't understand all the cynicism.

Worked great for Obama :)

And of course the counter-story:

http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1144377 (page 5+ is most interesting)

These are injuries caused by helicopters, drones, quadcopters etc. I don't want that shit floating around me. They are seriously dangerous bits of kit. Yes I know the "versus cars" argument but cars don't intentionally fall out of the sky on you and have roads to go on.

Drones don't intentionally fall "on you" either. By the numbers cars are probably the second most dangerous thing you interact with day-to-day (cheeseburgers being the first). Safe travel - especially safe failure - is obviously an important concern, but can we at least bring up some rational evaluation?

Well they fail to prevent falling on you very well as the link shows. A lot of the accidents are from spurious behaviour and unrecoverable flight profiles.

I can't help but growl QUAD DAMAGE!! reading those forum posts. Ouch.

When regs do come out they will most likely have to stay over roads and can't just cut through someones yard.

When it fails an air bladder will inflate minimizing the speed and force that it lands. Like, http://www.hovding.com/en/how_it_works/

Motors will have a lockout that stops it from spinning when it comes into contact with flesh. http://www.sawstop.com

This technology is way more than 2 years off. The FAA isn't just going to print out a pamphlet and say everything is OK. Machines are dangerous and nothing I see in any of the latest tech even comes close to the reliability or safety that will be necessary.

Lord knows there's no use for an automobile, when you consider the danger it poses compared to the reliable horse.

If we had flying cars with chainsaws at each corner, I'd agree.

It's totally worth it. just force them to be computer controlled when flying low altitude in densely populated areas.

Computers are controlled by programs written by humans.



The list goes on...

Those companies are very different from Amazon.

Sure, but I'm into politics, so I've learned to judge by results rather than claims and reputation.

And there isn't a drone on my doorstep yet.

If there ever will be one, someone needs to announce it first. And if the timing is commercially interesting for Amazon, that just reflect the fact that Amazon is a company with financial intereste, just like any other company.

what's even more exciting to me is that they could develop their own complete distribution system by pushing cheap drones out to the edge of their network.


with barely any people in the entire process to slow things down and make it expensive.

Either that, or disruptive innovation that media has picked up.

> What merit is there in rooting for failure for failure's sake?

You must be new to Hacker News…

Okay, but comments on this post seem to be particularly insufferable.

HN is usually filled with poor attempts at being clever; rarely is it ever so completely contradictory and illogical.

The truth is, drone delivery was discussed already here on HN. A lot of the details were already envisioned and suggested.

A lot of the commenters on this thread think it's a new idea or its's new here on HN. This is a good PR move for Amazon(edit: equal to Google's self driving car in PR power). It's likely they got inspired by some of the HN discussions. I hope they don't invent silly patents around it, such as "one flight delivery".

You give HN and its small eco-chamber way too much credit.

This. I don't think it's realized how insignificant to the real world our discussions are sometimes (note: sometimes). They are lovely, intellectual, and interesting, but not as important as you go about your day thinking they are.

Further, discovery of old discussion of topics is discouraged by the HN user experience. The only way for the OP to know it had been discussed is to have HN always tapped in. Since for most of us this is untenable (I hope most people here have better things during the day than to do than camp the HN trending board) the implication is incredibly exclusionary to most of the potential contributing population.


there is no evidence hacker news had anything at all to do with this idea. Also, just because people are excited about an idea doesn't make them naïve about it's freshness.

I'm certain drone delivery has been discussed by many countless people, most of whom the acronym HN means nothing to.

As I remember, this was discussed sometime ago on HN. I dont remember exact link posted on HN but here is techcruch article of a start-up that was discussed on HN


Heck, Bruce Sterling had delivery by drones (albeit drone pogo sticks[think regenerative bouncing]) back in the '90s.

Most people don't camp HN and probably won't know how often a topic has been discussed here.

And, while "one flight delivery"/lame marketing patents would indeed be dumb, I kinda want to see a grid of drones tossing boxes to each other mid-air like acrobats. I think that would be sweet.

Or old.

Hacker News on Dropbox: Why would anyone want this? I can do this already with my home PC, all I need to do is install package xyz and let it run in the background. How does this handle duplicates, this is doomed to fail.

I really feel like amazon's service should be called dropbox too.

Dropbox is for people that can't use rsync+git. For the unix-competent, it's not particularly difficult and we managed for many years with the previous tools, rsync+svn or even rsync+cvs

Yeah I really miss the good old days when I could take some pictures and all I had to do to send them to my mom was provision a server with a static IP address I could send her along with some links to rsync tutorials. Can't believe Dropbox had to come around and make everything so much harder...

I'm not sure which one is sarcasm anymore.

Don't be silly, all you had to do was just install and configure Apache, and then harden it against 37 types of DOS and malware intrusions and SQL injection.

I can use rsync and git, and use it for some things. But I'm perfectly happy to use Dropbox too. I like it because it Just Fucking Works on every platform I'm on.

The way I look at it, I've got limited time. I can spend it fucking around duplicating infrastructure, or I can spend it on something that matters more to me.

Guess what? There are millions of people that can't use rsync + git.

And they don't read HN either, for the most part. You're not getting anything like a cross-section of opinion of the population here, on any topic.

I'm among those who don't see any need for Dropbox, but readily admit that obviously millions of others do.

And they're all willing to pay ~$10/month for it to Just Fucking Work. Build things that solve people's problems.

That's only if you need MORE storage. Heck i am happy with my data limit, and yes, the major attraction is the "Just Fucking Works" part. Its the usability factor. Just cuz you CAN write your own web browser, doesn't mean you wouldn't use firefox or chrome

Dropbox is free for the vast majority of people.

Rsync is one-way. Git stores all files twice, and is a pain to purge old versions from. Both require scanning every file per sync, leading to wasted power and minutes of latency.

They do not do what dropbox does.

And for people who have to communicate with people who can't/won't/don't use rsync+git.

Hell, CmdrTaco on iPod...

To be fair, I don't really remember the first generation of the ipod being that successful. It wasn't until the ipod mini came out, a vastly superior product to the original ipod, that it became a must have gadget.

It should be noted that CmdrTaco never said his opinion applied to most people. He thought it was lame, and to him, it was.

Reviewers and journalists are held responsible for their opinions to a greater degree than people operating purely as individuals. Cmdr Taco said it was lame, and some people were relying on him to have an informed opinion - and he felt this opinion was well founded enough to broadcast it to thousands of people.

He was neither a reviewer (the product was not even available) nor a journalist. And his opinion was well founded. The iPad didn't have wireless, it did have less space than a Nomad, and "lame" is pure personal opinion.

That post is always trotted out (particularly on HN) as an example of how normal "nerds" are so disconnected from the general public, but what it ignores is that not everyone cares about what the general public will buy. Not everyone is a startup founder looking to sell gadgets to Average Joe. Some of us are just looking from the perspective of our own lives, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that.

Guess what: for CmdrTaco, and probably for many on Slashdot, the iPod was a crappy player. Deal with it.

You've missed the entire point of that example, which is that the iPod turned out to be a 500 billion dollar smash hit that turned apple from a doomed company to one of the top 3 tech companies of the 00s and 10s.

> CmdrTaco

> some people were relying on him to have an informed opinion

hahahaha.... Seriously though, his job was to stoke pageviews, not be correct. Slashdot didn't get big because Rob was a prophetic genius or a talented reporter.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason the average individual does believe that it's worth paying attention to the opinions of celebrities, regardless of any logic pertaining to their judgment or abilities.

This feels like a HN myth. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8863

First top level comment is positive, 2nd says we don't need it, following are again more positive comments.

99% of the thread are positive, most negative comments are regarding presentation.

I agree with you, it's a myth, there's just one comment which is similar to what the parent states, and his objection about not solving the connectivity issue is completely valid. I still use a pendrive in case there's no internet connection. Most of them are congratulations.

What most people don't notice is that many votes don't necesarily mean "everybody agrees with him/her". Many times I have upvoted comments with which I didn't agree but I thought were well reasoned and had validity because I think those comments improve the conversation.

On the other hand, I could agree with comments stating "Great work guys!" but I wouldn't vote them as they offer little to no substance.

The comment he's referring to is one of my all-time favorites.

Here's the original Dropbox thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8863

I really enjoy reading Hacker News from time to time. It really reminds me how far removed we are from the actual customers.

Me on dropbox today: Why would anyone want this?

seriously. Sure, the mob uses it, but they also use facebook, skype and whatsapp ... and soon they get their christmal gifts delivered by santa's little drones

Kills a dog!? I don't know what sort of half-ass dogs these people have but I'd be vastly more worried about my dog fucking up one of these drones and being held responsible for replacement costs.

My dog would definitely try to take it out but it's the same as with cats: I would be more worried about the old guy losing an eye than hurting the cat. Those rotor blades look pretty dangerous to me.

My cat killed my small RC helicopter, by carefully observing and then jumping at it, and when it was down she kept hitting it until parts came off and I took it away - but for a moment there I was worried that she had hurt herself on the blades. I can't imagine Prime Air won't have some kind of shielding in place.

If she has kittens I would like one.

I think the original author wanted to imply, that a more productive discussion would occur if we'd think of how to fix these issues. Like put a protective cover at the rim and a grid at the intake so air can flow, but hands, eyes and paws are safe?

The rotors can be made safe enough. It is more a question of the damage it can do by falling out of the air or causing some other accident.

Maybe they could do something like the Spirit and Opportunity rover's balloon mechanism to make it safer in case of accident. It would still be heavy, but it wouldn't be hard and it would have much greater air resistance so it would fall slower. Or maybe they could have helium canisters that inflate a balloon big enough to offset a portion of their weight. It'll probably be difficult but it seems like there are a lot of possibilities to explore.

Stop worrying.

Maybe worry for all of them. I would. If I had a dog.

That thing is obviously an engineering prototype.

I wouldn't be worried about dogs either.

I am worried about the 16-year old holding a mobile phone or an old lady throwing out the garbage.

No kidding. I was -- and still am -- blown away when I saw this. I'm definitely rooting for its success.

And it's not as if the current carrier methods have zero risk. Who's to say this won't eliminate most/all of those risks, potentially at the expense of adding less new risks?

What are you talking about? This delivery method is completely absurd. I mean, who's "bright idea" was it put an entire neighborhood's packages together in a brown truck, then have it travel down roads at 60 miles per hour, often times striking other cars and killing people? And I don't know about you, but I was taught to never put all your eggs in one basket. I mean, there is literally nothing good that can come about from this.

And then they leave it at my doorstep, sometimes even skipping the doorbell, where my neighbors and members of the public can steal the package at will. It's insane!

Human-driven delivery trucks hit and kill dogs, cats, men, women and children every day. On average, 16 people will die in any given day in a truck related crash. One in eight traffic fatalities involves a large cargo truck.

Driving vehicles on roads is incredibly dangerous. I don't think it's possible for drones to do a worse job.

Human-driven delivery trucks hit and kill dogs, cats, men, women and children every day

And gasoline-powered vehicles of all sorts catch on fire all the time in collisions, yet one or two of Tesla's catch on fire and all hell breaks loose. Our mass media has an extremely regressive, anti-intellectual, pro-status quo bent.

Status quo bias is a condition of humanity, not just the media.


Right, but this particular societal institution has a rational preference for the status quo. This is mentioned as an exception right on the page you just linked.

>And gasoline-powered vehicles of all sorts catch on fire all the time in collisions

Gasoline cars do not "catch on fire all the time in collisions". Not remotely.

It's unlikely the Teslas do, either. But Tesla's vehicles are both relatively novel, and real-world-untested and hence are both a news story and deserved of scrutiny.

Just like these drones.

Okay, maybe not just in collisions. But vehicle fires are extremely common. Like, we're talking every couple of minutes in the US.

You don't think that the media has covered (and exaggerated) other kinds of vehicle failures from non-electric vehicles before? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009%E2%80%9311_Toyota_vehicle_...

It would seem like many on HN has a very extremely regressive, anti-intellectual, pro-status quo bent as well. See old threads about Dropbox and the comments on this story about Prime Air. It seems like a large number of commentaries here are just looking for every excuse to complain or find fault, yet those same folks would think Bitcoin was the cat's meow, despite a myriad of potential issues with that.

Well, to be perfectly fair, it's not really acceptable for people to fill threads with "me too", "I really like this!", or "I can't wait for this to come out!" sort of drivel. When people try to come up with meaningful points to discuss about a particular topic, it's a lot easier to find faults with a particular idea than it is to find positives or predict the potential of the idea.

It's true, and Tesla appears to survive as a company regardless.

I think the dynamic is a bit different for Amazon. The so-called risk wouldn't even potentially be borne by the user, which is much different from the Tesla case.

The problem is that at some point society became insanely risk-averse, especially for new things.

Cars are OK despite being the most insanely dangerous things on the planet because we grew up with them. American Football is OK despite the ludicrous amount of fatalities and injuries.

Hell, if one of these drones just damages a house plant I'm sure the lawyers will be climbing over each other to take the case.

I doubt there will be enough plant carnage to warrant a class action case and a single plant is barely small claims court material.

That's not the point being made by the people who say a single killed dog could nix the program, in fact, it's the opposite. The point is that the public responds irrationally to new minute dangers like this. Commenters pointing this out aren't rooting for failure, and they're not making an argument about the danger. They're just observing that this thing has failure modes because people are dumb.

> They're just observing that this thing has failure modes because people are dumb.

Yeah, and people were damn scared of electricity when it was first introduced to the masses and many did not want it. Go forward 10, 20 years down the road and it was massively adopted. Of course there are always failure modes, but what's more critical to look at is, what's the benefit of this new technology, and will the benefits outweigh the failure modes? I'd suspect the answer will be a clear yes.

The first electric installations and equipment were relatively dangerous actually. No good isolation of metal parts, no separate earth wire, metal body, etc. Things like hair driers were often electrocuting people.

Even the improvements took a long time to become popular. I remember some electric tools from 80s that were known to zap people from time to time, but "that's just the way they are". So yeah... I suppose that the first people to adopt electricity at their homes actually did have something to worry about.

I don't think it's so obvious. Nuclear power is a good example of a tremendously useful technology that languishes because of public ignorance. (Even if you think you have some good argument why nuclear power isn't such a good idea, it's clear that this isn't what's caused the failure.)

Yes, all that are facts. But out of how many truck related deliveries? With your logic, one could say that even if 100% of drone deliveries resulted in a fatality, it would be enough to do < 16 deliveries a day on average and be able to say "Drones are not doing a worse job"

Skepticism and rooting for failure are not the same thing. There are plenty of people here and elsewhere who are mindlessly critical of everything, but not all the critics fall into that category.

The greatest challenge for radically transformative technologies (and this would extend far beyond the scope of Amazon if ever implemented) is almost always being regulated out of existence. That response requires the least effort and the least shared motivation, and it's the one usually taken when a new technology inspires many diverse fears.

Comparing this situation with that of almost any purely Internet-oriented technology isn't likely to lead to an accurate prediction. The downsides of existing delivery methods are likewise unlikely to play a part in the final decision. Pending revelations regarding Amazon's interest in political involvement, skepticism seems warranted. The impact of (well-justified) skepticism on the mindset of innovators also seems desirable.

Speaking for myself, I'll grant that the FAA has a slightly better than average track record (when making executive decisions, anyway).

What merit is there in rooting for failure for failure's sake?

I don't think everyone that expresses skepticism is rooting for failure. I think there's a very strong feeling of cynicism about the bureaucratic, anti-intellectual, regressive culture of the established corporatocracy.

Corporatocray is a weird word to use in this context. Amazon is a corporation wanting progressive regulation here, not resisting it.

The fact that the FAA is in charge of the regulations gives me reason for optimism. Having a consistent policy across the US will be a lot simpler than if each state, or worse, each municipality, were creating its own regulations.

Amazon is practically a startup compared to the existing, entrenched corporatocracy. They aren't old enough to have established the revolving door between their board room and the white house/congress/3-letter regulatory agencies.

My skepticism is based around the fact that the video and information seem like a cheap trick to gain PR.

The technology is interesting and has a bunch of really tough problems that need solving. Amazon haven't even begun to acknowledged any of the issues, let alone begin to solve them. Instead they built a shiny video of a fake product to cash in on the enthusiasm for drones.

No, they built a shiny video and got it aired on a news program so they could get free media in December when people are buying Christmas presents. They also put the idea out there early so that (a) competitors will be seen as imitators and (b) it's easier to pressure the FAA if the regulations aren't what they want.

Given the target audience I wouldn't expect an in-depth coverage of how they're solving specific implementation problems. If you even get that info in the pre-launch coverage, it'll be in a totally different venue and much closer to release. Even if they've solved all the issues, they don't want to give out potentially trade secret info to competitors 18 months before launch and it'd go over the 60 Minutes' audiences' heads - while they're a smart crowd, they're not necessarily up on AI programming or robotics or whatever.

How does skepticism equal rooting for failure?

cynicism is not skepticism. A lot of people seem to get these mixed up nowadays.

Cynicism is not very constructive, interesting, or challenging, so rarely does it make for high signal-to-noise ratio in comments, which hackernews was so appealing in the past for.

How does cynicism equal rooting for failure?

Fast consumer good delivery is pretty far from what I consider the best science fiction can offer.

The best new technology in science fiction might be warp drive. However, that's currently thought to be physically impossible.

Fast consumer delivery is merely impractical. It's so impractical, that we often think of it as impossible. But this is where science fiction is at its best: if we think about how cool it would be if this actually worked, we may find it easier to justify the kinds of investment needed to make it practical.

What about Energy? Loads and loads of it without harming the environment? I thought THAT would be pretty cool sci-fi tech

I'm not too enjoyed by the thought of privately owned drone fleets, for different reasons, some related to privacy and liberty.

Keep in mind that not every reader leaves a comment.

It's a good decision to try to stay on the right side of history. I wonder how many people were certain that it would be ludicrous and impossible to roll people around at 70 mph on smooth paths or thrust people through the air at hundreds of miles per hour.

It's interesting to consider that everything carries a death count. I wonder if there are stats on how many deaths pillows caused, and plastic bags, toothbrushes, laptops, light bulbs, etc. Would be helpful to keep new inventions in perspective.

Agreed. If it works or if it doesn't, its something new and very different.

> "As soon as one of these kills a dog it's done for"

As soon as it kills a dog, you'll have to put certified accelerometer-triggered parachutes on them, and that's it.

When accepting a risk improves logistics dramatically, we get used to that risk: just look at the death toll (and city-planning horrors) we gladly accept in exchange for pervasive car usage.

I think this will end up as important as the invention of the lorry for deliveries, and Amazon makes sure it'll master this technology before it even comes on its competitors' radars.

> As soon as it kills a dog, you'll have to put certified accelerometer-triggered parachutes on them, and that's it.

I can't imagine them not having some kind of safety system to respond to in-air failures. The potential liability is an obvious concern, but protecting the drone itself is probably enough to make it worthwhile.

If anyone can pull it off, it's probably Amazon.

I almost wish a smaller entity would have become the first major player in drone delivery. This is going to draw a lot of attention from regulators, and I can't help but think they will want nothing more than to stop or slow Amazon from further disruption in the retail space.

> I almost wish a smaller entity would have become the first major player in drone delivery

I think there was one. I remember reading about somebody doing this last summer on HN.

> This is going to draw a lot of attention from regulators

You betcha

> and I can't help but think they will want nothing more than to stop or slow Amazon from further disruption in the retail space.

And that's where I have to disagree. Average people go to large retailers because they are cheap. My mom works in retail and she manages to buy unbelievably cheap clothes after stacking several discounts - something the average person just can't (or won't) do on Amazon. And that makes a huge difference. The prices and the experience offered by some retailers is unmatched.

Don't get me wrong, Amazon works great if you're buying electronics or books. But I'd never buy clothes, furniture, or toiletries online because the experience is awful and it's usually cheaper to go out and buy what I need IRL. It's not regulators that are stopping Amazon from disrupting retail; it's Amazon.

Amazon Prime Air was predicted months ago by Zac Morris: http://www.techendo.co/posts/amazon-air-predicted-by-zac-mor...

I hope they're at least as skeptical of Virgin Galactic or the Hyperloop if they're honest. Yes it's far fetched but cool things do sometimes happen.

Ugh, don't read to much into the comments here. HN is full of whiners... or maybe I'm just getting old and the young crowd seems to whine a lot.

A lot of companies were talking about using drones for this kind of work. It's Amazon who is taking the risk to actually execute it publicly. Even if they fail, others will learn from it. Kudos to them for giving it a shot!

there was a show on tv in the UK about working conditions at their distribution centres which was really damning - a psychologist saying they'd combined all the worst practices

with that in mind, i'd say automating more of the order picking process would be better PR - seems like this might damage books but pc component suppliers for instance sometimes have totally automated picking, so may be possible to automate for more robust items

Agreed - people will always find holes to poke for no reason. They aren't the ones innovating.

It's easier to judge others than to put yourself out on a limb...

"90% of the time they're right"

Is the current model better?


That's just a story I found after 10 seconds of Googling. The broader point is that having your packages delivered fast-moving multiton machines controlled by fallible people and sharing space with pedestrians and other people-controlled machines is a very dangerous state of affairs. That there are risks in alternative means is true enough, but it's important to measure those risks relative to the status quo and not just assume they're purely additive.

But because we're human, we're bad at that. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Status_quo_bias

Of course googling you will find multiple fatality accidents with current drive and drop delivery methods. As of 2007 there were 254.4 million passenger cars registered in the US alone. That number has most likely continued to increase since this.

Until someone does some real quantitative risk studies; the risk is uncertain in comparison. It will only take one child seriously injured from one of these copters though for Amazon to be slapped with a major lawsuit; worse than the lawsuit though will be the public backlash from angry and indignant customers should something like this happen.

"It will only take one child seriously injured by one of these motorized carriages though for Ford to be slapped with a major lawsuit"

To be more nuanced about it, there's a big difference between this being a good or bad idea for humanity and this being an optimal or suboptimal move for Amazon. That there might be lawsuits and backlash even if it actually reduces the number of accidents might make it a poor play by Amazon, but it doesn't make it a bad idea in some ethical sense. For example, perhaps you're saying that even though it might save lives and improve efficiency, the current regulatory framework and public disposition make this kind of advance impossible (compare to cars hitting the streets in a different era). So there's a sort of normative versus positive question here. Perhaps you're talking about the latter, which is fine (and of course debatable), but I'm interested in the former. Especially so because the normative stuff is an input to tech policy debates and the positive stuff is its output, so you inform the debate by figuring out what the end result you want is.

But maybe you're not saying that; maybe you're saying "well, we don't know how risky drones are and maybe, safety-wise, it's a big step backwards" and the part about lawsuits and stuff was sort of a separate point. That's true enough. The reason I gave the Fed-Ex crash example was just to point out that it does not follow from an RC helicopter accident in Queens that drone deliveries are a bad idea. But it's true that the relative safety of cars and drones is unknown (and, as you can tell, I have a guess about it). Now the issue is that you need some way to find out. Or resign to never advancing at all. Human studies of new medicines encounter this problem too, yet few people are saying, "I don't want any medicinal advancements."

The reality is that if you want to improve society, you're going to have to take some risks with some unknowns. Perhaps you try it in some select cities in some limited fashion and build from there. (Think it's unethical to experiment on humans? What about the hundred-year, totally uncontrolled experiment we've been conducting using automobiles? I certainly didn't sign up for it. The status quo is not a special case.) Look at it like this: what does the world look like in three hundred years? I'd like to think it looks like something from Star Trek. So what, schematically, are the steps to get from here to there? How do you draw a line from 2013 to 2313? Because I'm pretty sure it doesn't involve "we don't have flying robots, so we don't know if they're dangerous, so no flying robots."

The victim in your link, if you look at the picture, was flying a single-rotor helicopter with what looks to be a 4+ foot wingspan.

The prototype in the Amazon video is an 8-rotor helicopter with little 4 to 6 inch wingspans. Anything that goes to production will have to pass FAA approval, so they will probably end up with some sort of hoop guard at the least.

Negativity for the sake of negativity?

So your point is that it won't decapitate someone and instead slice their body/face to pieces?

Not negativity for the sake of negativity. While the link I posted is a large single rotor helicopter, I was trying to show a worst case scenario. If Amazon Air does get off the ground then I would imagine the program expanding to delivering heavier packages over time, which would require larger quad copters and thus larger rotors and higher risk of more serious injuries.

I have built and fly hobby planes and copters in my spare time. They are dangerous. Once, after one of my planes crashed near me, I picked it up without giving it a second thought and sliced my hand wide open on the still spinning front propeller.

I don't necessarily believe this is a technology that will result in fatalities, but certainly injuries, especially to children and animals.

On a less dangerous note; I fully expect some shenanigans from people shooting these things down to get free goods.

So your "worst case scenario" includes a complete lack of reasonable safety precautions that the FAA would mandate before this is approved AND damage inflicted by something with 8x the wingspan (not to mention differences in engine power)? You believe this is a reasonable comparison?

We could build UPS trucks that are two lanes wide and paint over their windshields, but we don't. Because that would be stupid. So stupid that comparing the risk involved isn't even worthy of discussion.

All delivery technologies result in injuries. That doesn't make them "not good ideas".

This is not a toy helicopter.

This is a delivery vehicle equipped with the best collision detection technology Amazon can find, approved by some of the best profit-motivated, liability-averse lawyers in the world.

> ...approved by some of the best profit-motivated, liability-averse lawyers in the world.

You can be sure that on the other side of the equation, if and when a delivery drone causes damage to property or causes bodily harm or death, some of the best profit-motivated, liability-sniffing lawyers in the world will be eying the bank accounts of Amazon and its insurance carriers.

By the way: attorneys don't "approve" anything. They advise clients on risk and can try to help clients mitigate risk to the greatest extent possible based on the courses of action clients pursue. Companies do stupid things that create liabilities, some huge, all the time. The attorneys make just as much (if not more) cleaning up messes as they do trying to prevent them.

Amazon however, is not particularly profit motivated...

That wasn't a toy helicopter either.

Correct. In the same way, this isn't a toy rocket: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rocket1034040.jpg

This concept and forward thinking is of the type I make a conscious effort to protect from skepticism and naysayers. Aside from any obvious or glaring safety issues, ideas like this one, that teeter on the reality-joke line, are the exact ones that bring about true disruption. And that's why I encourage everyone around me to keep an open and forgiving mind, like you would with a child.

Will Amazon Prime Air work? I don't know, but I hope so.

Agreed. So far, I've seen nothing but specious fear-mongering and nonsensical "what-if" arguments against this thing.

I can understand why people doubt the feasibility of drone delivery, especially given the legal impediments to adoption. Frankly, I doubt that this type of service will be practical within four years. What I can't understand is why people openly reject the idea of drones.

I don't see how Prime Air is any less safe or efficient than sending thousands of five-ton metal boxes barreling down residential streets. I don't see why a five-pound piece of plastic falling from the sky poses an appreciably greater risk than a branch falling on you. I don't see how people can draw parallels between small, low-altitude consumer drones and military UAVs. The level of fear surrounding this announcement makes no sense.

The response to Prime Air goes far beyond skepticism. It's incoherent, fanatical pessimism, and it's really dissapointing.

Law students (most) take a class called Criminal Procedure that heavily covers 4th, 5th, and (to a smaller extent) 6th amendment jurisprudence. I took it in 2011 when drones were really heavy in the news cycle. Our final exam was solely on drones and how their adoption would effect/be effected by 4th amendment considerations.

So with all that said, I really really hate the idea of drones. They get places humans cannot. They're expected in places *humans cannot be. These places are protected right now. Just putting drones in operation (especially in the hands of the public) means every single bit of the public up to the point of actually suctioning cup on your window is possibly fair game. Of course, I hope that reasonable regulations are at play but I am pessimistic about it. I think people will want their taco drones and their 30 min Amazon delivery MORE than they want to hear how it might impact their privacy.

So it's not safety, it's not "oh no, they're like the military now". It's purely the loss of private airspace that still remains and the potential to abuse it audio/visual wise.

I can already buy a little quadcopter, attach a camera to it, and fly it around; the relevant regulations here are just about commercial use, right?

That's actually a minor quibble with your argument, though. My real problem is this: you're skeptical that they won't be regulated enough, so you want them regulated out of existence? Your solution is a bit like saying, "well, the NSA will be able to spy on our network connections, so let's just not have an internet." If you want good tech policy, you need to support good tech policy, not just throw your hands up and say, "there could be adverse consequences, so no new technology!" Otherwise we'll never get anywhere.

Yes, the relevant regulations are about commercial use which is COMPLETELY backwards from a privacy standpoint.

To answer your question, no, I don't want drones to not exist and it would not be worthwhile if I did. Since they obviously do and will continue to exist, we should be thinking about the privacy considerations first with regards to how you would restrict the government's use of drones and THEN go on to the commercial considerations with those same restrictions in mind.

There's a little known set of 4th amendment jurisprudence attached to technology that says something along the lines of "if the public can't generally take advantage of the technology (have it be readily accessible to them), neither can law enforcement when executing a 'search'" - think super-accurate heat sensors that can essentially x-ray the interior of homes, etc...Well we are about to just hand an entire domain to them!

In short: law enforcement is salivating at the thought of commercial drone use because they won't have any regulations applicable to them.

I assume you mean Kyllo, which I have a number of problems with (though I'm somewhat reassured by some of Scalia's points in the majority opinion). But maybe my imagination isn't good enough - what's the scary scenario with drones that Kyllo makes legal?

It's a new thing. People are always scared of new things. And soon enough it's just a part of life and you can't believe society ever got along without it. There is a massive danger that overly conservative regulations will impede technological progress and innovation.

And to be perfectly honest I'm not worried about privacy from it. There isn't much you can see from a drone you can't with binoculars and possibly a ladder. And besides that, no one is going to spy on you. It's going to be something minor that happens to one out of a million people and then gets completely exaggerated by the media.

Whereas changing the world's distribution system has massive implications on everyone's lives, and many of the other possible uses of drones can change the world as well. Besides it's an awesome hobby and I'd hate to see it get banned just because it became more popular.

> I don't see how Prime Air is any less safe or efficient than sending thousands of five-ton metal boxes barreling down residential streets.

Here's the difference: there's a person directly controlling that five-ton metal box.

Even if you assume that a) the person behind the wheel of a delivery truck is arguably more fallible than a drone following a flight plan and b) a company operating a drone will have the same potential legal liabilities if the drone causes harm to property or an individual, you should not underestimate or ignore the comfort that being able to "blame" or hold a human being accountable provides.

> The response to Prime Air goes far beyond skepticism. It's incoherent, fanatical pessimism, and it's really dissapointing.

There are many commercial applications for drones that I don't see a whole lot of opposition to. These include agriculture, construction, mining and oil. Many if not most of these involve the use of drones in areas that are sparsely populated or where access is limited to authorized personnel.

The only thing that's incoherent and disappointing here is pretending that there's no difference between these "industrial" applications and applications that would inject drones into highly-populated areas, particularly those that are residential.

Suburban residential is very low-population-density, a few people per square mile, less during working hours. It wouldn't be hard to put a box next to your driveway where a copter could drop a package, and never get within a hundred feet of anybody.

The real population density issue is downtown, during working hours. Even then folks are on the sidewalk or indoors. There's nobody on the roof for instance. Copters could drop a package into a chute, again without getting close to anybody.

> Suburban residential is very low-population-density, a few people per square mile...

It sounds like you're confusing "suburban residential" with "backwater rural." Census data[1] shows that there are a lot more people per square mile than you suggest.

Even a small metropolitan area like Vernal, Utah, which has a population of just 25,224, has a population density of ~250 people per square mile.

[1] http://www.census.gov/population/metro/files/CBSA%20Report%2...

You do realize how big a square mile is, right? 250 people still leaves a lot of empty space.

Since the payload is 5 pounds, it would have to weigh significantly more.

like you would with a child

Why would we turn off our critical thinking skills when contemplating claims of a leap in technology that transcends what many of us understand to be possible currently?

There are times to encourage creative thought, like with children or within the context of a brainstorming meeting.

But most of the time we should evaluate claims critically with the best practices of the Scientific Method.

IMO, there's way too much gullibility in our society for religions, junk science, Internet scams, and political dogma.

The Scylla and Charybdis of innovation.

Open your mind too far and you accept too many wacky ideas. Close it to much and you'll never see what's possible.

The really hard part of critical thinking is training your intuitive, heuristic filters. Applying rigorous critical thinking to everything takes way too long. Conversely, applying critical thinking to nothing at all makes you a gullible idiot. Developing that filter to strike the right balance is a lifelong learning process.

Sure, but if I could turn the societal dial a few clicks toward critical thinking vs day dreaming, I'd do it.

The unquestionable success of the Scientific Method has shown that careful analysis and requirement of experimental proof far outstrip bumbling about with our own natural human level of random thoughts that we label "creativity".

Creativity and critical thinking aren't opposite ends of the same scale, in many ways they are orthogonal.

Similarly, critical thinking and blind pessimism aren't the same thing, though many people mistake them to be.

The scientific method is about testing ideas.

Generating ideas another matter.

Innovation often requires ideas that sound 'crazy' (because they don't fit with established ideas).

I dunno. Maybe.

But then I look around and see more need for creativity now than ever. Technology is changing faster than ever and that's impacting society in ways previously only speculated about. To me that means there's a lot of opportunity out there waiting to be captured by people crazy enough to do a little dreaming.

Ideas are delicate things.

> Why would we turn off our critical thinking skills when contemplating claims of a leap in technology that transcends what many of us understand to be possible currently?

Because it's Amazon, and they're one of a few companies able to choose the technology, location, and customer base for the system, and willing to operate a service at a loss. If it's only possible to deliver this to suburban homes in Little Rock, Arkansas, and they lose money on each delivery, then they still can do it.

Just because it's Amazon doesn't mean you should turn off your critical thinking skills.

Well said

Well said. It's original thinking like this that moves us forward as a human race. And in order to move forward, you have to take huge risks, face uncertainty and do whatever you can to prove everyone wrong.

Here's to hoping that Amazon learns from Google' mistake and doesn't decide to add 'additional features' once this is already deployed. (I'm referring to Google's Wifi AP scanning debacle w/ Google StreetView trucks)

That's a cool idea. I could do that by amazon prime airing myself a bunch of raspberry pi's scanning continuously through the system.

I hope it works too - it seems so cool.

But I am not sure this is the big problem in this space.

Current delivery time = 1 day for last mile + >1 day for warehouse -> local area

This method reduces the last mile delivery time down to 30 mins but it is not clear how the second part would be optimized down. At least, without losing the value proposition of Amazon - giant centralized warehouses instead of local retail outlets.

It's like the levels of caching in a computer.

(just using orders of magnitude for an example, the actual numbers for best efficiency probably aren't quite so nice)

The 1000 most frequently ordered items in a warehouse near your neighborhood. The 10000 most frequently ordered items in a city-wide warehouse. The 100,000 most frequently ordered items in a regional warehouse.

Amazon already has the regional warehouse part.

I'd guess that this might be worth doing even if only the 1,000 most frequently ordered items can get there in 30 minutes, and should definitely be worth doing if you can get the 10,000 most frequently ordered items there in 30 minutes.

Agree, it could totally work for Amazon Fresh items, say, that are bound to be ordered regularly.

Plus they don't have to roll out worldwide simultaneously, they can just do a few select cities at first.

By having more local warehouses that stock the top x most sold things. 100% of the things I can readily remember that I ordered the last 2 or 3 months are so common that they were all in stock in the local shop that I bought most of them at (a large online retailer here in the Netherlands has 6 or 8 or so shops across the country, for local pick up or to try stuff in-store). And they were not the most common things either - a steam wall paper remover, a router (of the woodworking type, not the networking type), a specific type of headphone. If they can have those levels of stock in high street bricks and mortar shops, they could have even larger inventories when they could store them in fully automated warehouses in cheap industrial areas. The accuracy in stock prediction ('shop stock', not 'financial markets stock', obviously) is jaw-dropping.

Man this is going to destroy high street shopping (even further, I might add) - imagine being able to order 10 outfits for trying on from your own home, try them on and send the 9 you don't want back right away, in less time than it would have taken you to just drive to wherever you can buy it off line. If clothing (and other main street) shops are having a hard time now, wait until they have to compete with this...

I assume they would start to have distributed micro ware houses (shipping containers, dry vans) that are launching points for drones or dudes on scooters. I feel sorry for minimart.

Also, if serious, they should buy 7-11. I still don't understand why Blockbuster wasn't scooped up like hot cakes. All those juicy retail locations.

What if I give you chance to bet on the success of this technology, what terms would be acceptable for you?


When will I be able to choose Prime Air as a delivery option?

A: We hope the FAA's rules will be in place as early as sometime in 2015. We will be ready at that time.

Sorry, but not a chance. I'm intimately familiar with the flight controller, motor and batter technology behind multi-rotors, and I can state unequivocally that this is just not ready for 'prime'-time (so-to-speak :)

There are multiple issues still to be addressed, not least of which is battery energy density & power-to-weight ratio.

Battery recharge time - out for 15 mins flight? Recharge for 2 hours.

Flight time / payload - pick one. (20 mins with no payload is a stretch. Add bigger batteries? Too much weight. Add bigger motors and props for more lift? now you need bigger batteries...

No good in 'weather' of pretty much any kind.

Unstable with a failed motor / prop. Will fall out of the sky under numerous failure scenarios.

The blades are lethal - can be shielded, but will add weight and reduce efficiency.

GPS is unreliable at best, and is easily interfered with.

Current regulations in countries that have them typically require line-of-sight operation; away from people and property (which rules out landing outside someone's front door); no over-flight of persons; restrictions around distances from the operator when taking off and landing. (And remember the battery / weight issue? Go over a certain weight [~8KG], and the regulations get even more onerous.)

Battery technology will improve, safety issues will be addressed, regulations will change. But 2015? Jeff, I admire your optimism!

I'm also "intimately familiar" with multi rotors, and I don't think any of these issues you've identified are valid, with the exception of regulations (which Amazon admits won't happen).

> Battery recharge time - out for 15 mins flight? Recharge for 2 hours.

So? Swap out batteries. The whole drone doesn't have to be grounded for 2 hours.

> Flight time / payload - pick one. (20 mins with no payload is a stretch. Add bigger batteries? Too much weight. Add bigger motors and props for more lift? now you need bigger batteries...

That's wrong. There are many off the shelf platforms which can easily handle 5+ lb payloads for 20+ minute flights. Here's one: http://www.freeflysystems.com/products/cinestarHL.php

> No good in 'weather' of pretty much any kind.

That's wrong, too. Multirotor flight speeds are 30+ knots. Modest wind is not a big deal.

> Unstable with a failed motor / prop. Will fall out of the sky under numerous failure scenarios.

Most robust multirotor platforms have 8 or more motors/props, and can trivially handle the failure of one or two. It's true that there are "numerous failure scenarios" which will result in a UAV falling out of the sky, but the same is true of passenger airliners: this will happen if the wings fall off. To suggest that a UAV can't be made as reliable as a typical manned helicopter is short-sighted.

> The blades are lethal - can be shielded, but will add weight and reduce efficiency.

This is only true in the absence of failsafe mechanisms: e.g. a device that brakes the motor when below a certain altitude. Also, as you mentioned, they can be shielded.

> GPS is unreliable at best, and is easily interfered with.

No, GPS is perfectly reliable "at best", and utterly nonfunctional at worst. Fortunately, there are lots of alternatives for GPS.

> Current regulations in countries that have them typically require line-of-sight operation; away from people and property (which rules out landing outside someone's front door); no over-flight of persons; restrictions around distances from the operator when taking off and landing. (And remember the battery / weight issue? Go over a certain weight [~8KG], and the regulations get even more onerous.)

This is 100% valid. Regulations are a concern.

The multirotor you cited has a no-load hover time of about 15 mins - hover n/e forward flight. It has a loaded flight time of about 5 mins. Like I said - pick one.

I didn't say wind, I said weather. That said, forward flight in even moderate wind draws considerably more current.

The motors are open for cooling and weight efficiency. They aren't waterproof. Try flying in snow, or dusty / sandy environments and see what happens!

If GPS accuracy randomly ranges between perfect and nonfunctional, then you have described unreliable. Please cite all these alternatives.

What do you imagine might happen if one were to 'brake the motors below a certain altitude'?

And I didn't say 'can't be made', I said the technology isn't there yet, nor by 2015 as Amazon suggest. I also said it will be eventually.

Regarding the flight time/capacity issue, I'd be quite interested to see how a system like [1] would perform.

[1] http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/aerial-robots/ir...

What are other good alternatives to GPS?

Inertial navigation systems[1] have been used for more years than GPS has existed. Even now almost all military drones / rockets / ICBMs use very precise inertial systems.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inertial_navigation_system

Two guesses: cellular location services and custom radio telemetry systems. Maybe that's one guess.

I'm the complete opposite - I've never even seen a drone-like machine.

Could you squeeze in any more minutes with solar panelling? I mean if they have to fly in decent weather anyway they may as well try to get a bit more charge in them while flying

I am certain any panel you could possibly add would cost more energy to lift than it might collect.

How far can they fly in 20 minutes?

> 20+ minute flights

That's 10 minutes each way. Assuming they fly at 30 mph, you get a range of 5 miles. That might work for big cities, assuming they can fly for 5 miles in a straight line, which they can't.

> No, GPS is perfectly reliable "at best", and utterly nonfunctional at worst. Fortunately, there are lots of alternatives for GPS.

GPS got hacked a long time ago, and even military drones got stolen using a fake GPS transmission.

There are not that many GPS alternatives. GLONASS. Maybe if you have some local towers, but that's a huge project in itself.

1. New LiPo batteries recharge at up to 10C (ten times their rated hourly capacity), which means a full charge under 10 minutes (including final balancing stage).

2. Octocopters, unless loaded to the hilt, can more or less fly uninterrupted even when missing a propeller.

3. Multirotors fly well even in strong winds (20mph winds and more).

I don't see any technical difficulty preventing a company with the resources of Amazon to introduce this service in a year. The major problems are legislative.

And social. I'm curious what sort of utility such a service could yield, but I'm not interested in filling our airspace with service drones. The low-elevation sky is relatively uncluttered by our works.

I think it can work with minor interruption to everyday life if the drone are confined to the paths of major highways. It will reduce their noise pollution (and be marginally safer in a crash).

The bigger impact would be on smaller retailers, that don't have this service. This service is an absolute killer, making it faster to order a toothpaste from Amazon compared to picking it up at a shop outside your house.

The bigger impact would be on smaller retailers, that don't have this service. This service is an absolute killer, making it faster to order a toothpaste from Amazon compared to picking it up at a shop outside your house.

This would be an incredible benefit to human economy. Imagine the millions of retail jobs completely obsoleted by drones. Consider the price difference between wholesale and the corner retail shop -- a cost this could largely eliminate. Consider all the hours wasted in retail-facing interactions.

Why would a small store serving a local population not be able to offer this? There is a lot of open source drone stuff out there, so the technology should be readily available. At least available within a year of Amazon putting it into service.

If my local mom-n-pop store has an app and a drone, I would shop there.

I can think of a few problems:

1) Scale: a small store might not have enough sales to justify buying a single drone and training the staff to use it.

2) Regulation: licensing and certifications to be allowed to use these - particularly in a completely hands-off way - may have high fixed costs that a small store can't afford.

3) Lack of knowledge: most small store managers probably don't have any idea of how to set this up, or that it is even possible.

And in the end, why would you buy from the local mom-n-pop store? Nostalgia? Helping the people you know? I think that'd wear out pretty soon or just not work for many people.

Could you get your pizza or Chinese food delivery via drone?

Yeah, for food I think it could actually work, if you had a startup like GrubHub handling the drones, which would just fetch the food from the chosen restaurant and deliver it.

Amazon's page reads like a Google April 1st post.

Or maybe someday we'll look back at these comments like we do at http://slashdot.org/story/01/10/23/1816257/

How right, so very very right you are.

Quoted from the thread you linked.

"Raise your hand if you have iTunes ...

Raise your hand if you have a FireWire port ...

Raise your hand if you have both ...

Raise your hand if you have $400 to spend on a cute Apple device ...

There is Apple's market. Pretty slim, eh? I don't see many sales in the future of iPod.

~LoudMusic -- No sig for you. YOU GET NO SIG!"

I love this one, could be written today...

Apple is being distroyed by the rumors that are being created. When they announce that they are going to have a new product, everyone thinks it's going to blow their worlds. Rumors start flooding in about even the most outragous products ( I even heard a few "sources" mention teleportion) This is getting plain stupid.

Apple is a normal company. Why does the public constantly expect them do the impossible?

Actually, these comments are not as discredited as one might think in hindsight. iPod sales weren't spectacular until the 4th generation of the iPod classic and until iPod Mini was introduced 3 years later. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/34/Ipod_sale...

I think it's valuable to point out the problems with the current technology and regulations like scoot did, even though we all realize that in a few years things could change.

One could say the same about the iPhone - http://static4.businessinsider.com/image/50104de669beddc2110...

Or really any 'disruptive' product.

  Battery recharge time - out for 15 mins flight? Recharge for 2 hours.
Short trips to/from a fixed distribution point is the canonical use case for battery swapping in electric vehicles.

It is, but keep in mind that for weight efficiency the LiPo batteries are only protected by a heat-shrink skin, no physical or fire protection at all. They will spontaneously combust quite robustly in a crash, or during charging of they are faulty or have been stressed in flight.

So they have to be charged in a fire safe manner, and (in a commercial setting such as a distribution centre) away from the main facility. Not beyond possibility, and again with changes in battery technology this will improve (LiFo is looking hopeful relative to LiPoon the safety front), but another logistical hurdle, so still worth mentioning.

In a city, it would be awesome to see automated rooftop drone charging systems (solar powered of course).

Well, you know, Bezos is a pretty smart guy. So maybe he knows something about this technology that the rest of us don't.

Maybe he has an upper hand over the current state-of-the-art.

Or maybe he's just orchestrating a little extra PR for Amazon on 60 minutes?

Or he wants to create public demand for this service to use as leverage for getting the regulations through.

I have no particular love for Bezos - last I heard, Amazon sucks as a workplace - but this seems unlikely. There are better ways to drive PR than reveal one of your company's secret projects to the public.

Yeah, right. The privileged information available only to the mega-rich...pfft.

Or advances in the available technology driven by a great R&D team with a significant budget instead of hobbyists?

I don't want to knock hobbyists, because they often do great work. But if Amazon thinks this is the future of package delivery, they could bring an awful lot of resources to bear on the problem.

Bezos has access to massive R&D resources because he created massive value for consumers.

Now, those resources can be leveraged to generate even more value for consumers.

The privileged information available only to the mega-rich...pfft.

Don't dismiss the value of insider information re: government policy.

There are two ways to present this type of criticism: lay it out and hypothesize how they are going to overcome these obstacles, or get up and say they will certainly fail because these obstacles are impossible to overcome. You can guess which one of these makes you look like a short-sighted un-imaginative cynic.

Having to have several sets of batteries seems like on of the simpler problems to deal with.

Why not just put the battery in the payload lid?

>We hope the FAA's rules will be in place as early as sometime in 2015

Well, it is carefully crafted to say the rules will be in place, not the technology. The FAA could say Amazon needs to do X first where X is any one of the challenges you mentioned.

I'm glad they put that in, though, because otherwise the threads are always full of "The FAA will never allow this" comments. The wording gives me a reassuring feeling that Amazon knows how much hard work it will take to accomplish.

> We will be ready at that time.

Except for, you know, that bit (the bit you cut out)

Holy crap, you're right. My eyes skipped completely over that. I wasn't trying to be a jerk or anything. Upvotes for you, shame for me.

Sounds like a lot of fun problems to solve, and I'm sure they have many competent engineers working on it.

The real surprising thing is that Amazon is accelerating the post industrial age. The economy is growing but wages are stagnant. A demand for human labor is declining while corporations are making massive profits. These drones are an example where machines are replacing jobs that were once done by humans.

As we pull out of the recession in the US, the fastest growing job market is the low wage/retail jobs. Walmart will have to match the technologies of Amazon as they fight for market share. Leading to more and more automation of human tasks. During this past thanksgiving there were worker strikes in some Walmart stores for a living wage (~$15/hr). What happens to society when these jobs are not even available?

The most interesting part of the 60 minutes interview was not the drones but this:

Charlie Rose: Is Amazon ruthless in their pursuit of market share?

Jeff Bezos: The Internet is disrupting every media industry, Charlie, you know, people can complain about that, but complaining is not a strategy. And Amazon is not happening to book selling, the future is happening to book selling.

It's a common but incorrect assumption to think that replacing repetitive human tasks with machines leads to wide-scale unemployment.

Of course the delivery person who is replaced by drones is out of a job initially, but this doesn't doom everyone to unemployment. Higher productivity through mechanisation leads to lower prices, which means more cash available for other purchases, which leads to jobs growth in other areas and a rise in living standards. There are always winners and losers in any technological change, but the general quality of life for society as a whole improves when menial repetitive tasks are replaced by automation.

There are more jobs around now than there was at the dawn of industrialisation, and has been, every step of the way. This will continue to be true, despite difficult adjustment periods for individuals and businesses in effected industries. Stagnation is much worse than progress, and trying to regulate away technological progress is even worse than that.

I think the major applications for this are in areas where people can't quite imagine yet. Like the increase in internet speed and portable processors which ran ahead of services to leverage it, this type of infrastructure may start by delivering books, and end who-knows-where. Distributed aged-care with medication and meals delivered in-home? Some bizarre physical-world words with friends? The possibilities are quite exciting if it can be intelligently standardized.

Higher productivity through mechanisation also leads to businesses being far more capital-intensive and less reliant on humans, which means a large proportion of the money coming in from those lower prices goes to members of the capital owning class - who, in general, don't spend nearly as much of it - which, in turn, means that spending power amongst the people who do actually spend will decrease faster than prices.

Well, no, that's not what I am saying at all. The beneficiaries of lower prices are the end customers, not the owners of the business. Most people live on (relatively) fixed incomes - a gradual lowering of prices for things that they buy simultaneously increases their quality of life by leaving a larger share of income for other purchases.

This is easily tested by most people - inflation adjusted, owning a device with the power of an iPhone is absurdly cheap by historical standards.

I would also argue that businesses are becoming less capital intensive in general. Sure, specific types of business require multi-billion investments, but many other businesses are launchable now with essentially 'zero down'. That's a combination of automation allowing previously labor intensive tasks, and of automation lowering the cost of capital goods. You can start a startup now with just a single laptop and some open-source software, the capital requirements are essentially nil. Ironically it is Amazon itself which carries credit for some of this - by automating virtualised computing resources, it has lowered the price of those resources and allowed more people to start businesses.

I'm surprised I have to post that on HN, but it's true.

Higher adoption of mechanisation leads to better availablity and lower prices for the machines, though.

I might be wrong, but think I see a trend where the barriers of entry for many businesses are becoming lower and lower. For example: 3d printers, UAV drones, computers, sewing machines, craft beer equipment. They are all easily obtainable by a private person without outside money.

Also, while some equipment is still too expensive for a layman, a huge amount of manufacturing processes are now offered as a service. Better automation makes it viable to produce small batches of custom products. It is because of this mechanisation trend that I'm now able to send a 3d file to some company in UK and get a few hundred custom injection moulded parts delivered by mail.

>There are more jobs around now than there was at the dawn of industrialization

But the population also exploded since then.[1]

I believe there are possibly no jobs for every one and a basic income of some kind should be considered. Just a way to avoid misery until people figure out their talents. [2]

I'm not a hater, though. I love the idea of Amazon Air, even though I'll probably never use it. Just to know it exists is a funny thing.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:World-Population-1800-2100...

[2] http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/in-latvia-young-people-d...

In the long term yes. In the short term (the rest of an adult worker's life) there is widespread, chronic unemployment and reduction of quality of life.

I think optimism is the most important requirement for adaptation to any major technological change. How long has big media been kicking against the pricks of online distribution for purely political reasons, and how far has it gotten them? What could have been today if the MPAA, RIAA, and affiliated groups accepted the technological change and thought about how to best leverage it instead of sitting around sulking and suing because new strategies were required to successfully collect royalties?

The problem you're describing is purely psychological. New technologies open up many new opportunities. There's no reason the employees of the delivery apparatus obsoleted by Prime Air can't learn something new and seize the opportunity.

My personal theory is that Amazon hates being reliant on UPS and FedEx. I can't see Bezos being thrilled that so much of his empire relies on the Teamsters. Note that UPS's labor agreement with the Teamsters expires in the next few years. That poses a big risk to Amazon's infrastructure if there's labor unrest during the negotiation.

I've long suspected they were working towards a point where they could handle the last mile in house—this development doesn't surprise me at all.

Totally agree. Even if this concept doesn't work perfectly, it puts pressure on couriers to give Amazon the discounts they want.

Its kind of like how large enterprises use an Open Office support quote to bring down the cost of their Microsoft office licensing.

The Amazon USPS Sunday shipping has started too. I ordered something Friday and it showed up at 10am today (Today is Sunday, for those of you reading in the future).

I'm really curious about how FedEx and UPS will handle this. If the legislation changes then I think there could be room for one of these two, or possibly a new competitor, to create their own fleet of drones to offer local deliveries for businesses everywhere.

Just watched the 60 minutes segment: Bezos say they won't be ready until 2015 at the earliest, likely 2016. (Edit: as the commenter below pointed out, I misheard the timeframe: is is 4-5 years out)

He said the range is 10 miles, which is good enough for most residential areas. They are aiming for delivery in 30 minutes. The drones are autonomous: you plug in the GPS coordinates and away they go.

The biggest challenge (again, according to Bezos) is the redundancy, "making sure it doesn't land on people's heads."

My question is: why announce this now, 2 to 3 (or more) years out? Are they gearing up to get governmental regulations?

I don't know where you heard 2016, he said 4-5 years, and that's being optimistic. From the transcript:

Jeff Bezos: And, you know, I don’t want anybody to think this is just around the corner. This is years of additional work from this point. But this is…

Charlie Rose: But will ‘years’ mean five, 10?

Jeff Bezos: I think, I, I am, I’m an optimist Charlie. I know it can’t be before 2015, because that’s the earliest we could get the rules from the FAA. My guess is that’s, that’s probably a little optimistic. But could it be, you know, four, five years? I think so. It will work, and it will happen, and it’s gonna be a lot of fun.

>> why announce this now, 2 to 3 (or more) years out? Are they gearing up to get governmental regulations?

My guess: if the public is clearly excited, it puts more pressure on regulators to approve it.

Which is otherwise a hard sell, especially when you think of what it means for security if autonomous drones are a normal sight.

I think Bezos is wondering how society will respond. It is up to us. Some will welcome this as an improvement in delivery efficiency and service. Some will say it will make our cities crowded and noisy not only on the streets with cars and trucks, but in the sky too.

I like my blue silent sky. I recall scenes of sci-fi worlds like the 5th Element. I suggest we tax externalities. If you order by sky, you'll create visual and noise pollution to many people, and you should pay a tax for this, to be shared by the community as a whole.

My take is that Bezos wants to see how society will respond to this. A high tax would kill his ROI, and he won't invest much in R&D. If we say "Nice! We want this" he will double down.

> I like my blue silent sky. I recall scenes of sci-fi worlds like the 5th Element. I suggest we tax externalities. If you order by sky, you'll create visual and noise pollution to many people, and you should pay a tax for this, to be shared by the community as a whole.

HA! Good luck on that.

You must live nowhere near anywhere. My sky is plenty filled with buildings, airplanes, helicopters, and even the occasional hot air balloon.

You keep your taxes to yourself. I have a package that needs delivering in under 30 minutes by drone.


It seems like they only want to put pressure on the FAA. 3/4 FAQs mention the FAA.

As far as range goes, you could Pony Express it with a series of waystations.

why not just use the delivery (UPS/Fedex/etc) trucks as a base station for the drones?

Pull in to a neighborhood of, say, 500 residents; Say you have about 100 packages to deliver... Set up 5 drones to deliver packages. Even if it takes 60 seconds on average for each drone to deliver and return, it probably is still much faster than the truck driver having to drive into every street, stop, grab the right package, drop it off, and go back to the truck and repeat.

I have a feeling they are doing it to garner support for drones in general, which will help them with the FDA when it comes to getting approval.

I hope you mean FAA.


This is a startup opportunity. Amazon's competitors will want a drone delivery service even if they can't build the drones or service themselves.

Except that Amazon will likely offer Drones As A Service, too. They have a pretty solid track record of offering their own technologies widely, even to competitors.

It also gives them control of the conversation of drones, which, let's just say, hasn't exactly been in your favour, if you're a drone.

Responses that I have not yet seen in the comments.

1: These could deliver into my apartment on the nth floor by coming through an open window, as well as the mentioned balconies and front yards or the roof.

2: We could not just set our delivery point up using a app on our smartphones (GPS wtc), but those phones could also broadcast over the various radios to the device and even use the camera to help the UAV navigate. Enter a few hints about route and off we go.

3: The UAVs can be launched from delivery vans to save on the flight time from the larger depot. Drive to a delivery area, deliver the big parcels by hand while the little parcels are automatically delivered by UAVs operating from the roof of the van.

4: The cost of UAVs will come down - significantly - so they may become semi-disposable for the delivery company. In 2015 that may not be true, but by 2025 I can certainly see it.

5: The UAV's could, if they are set up with the right taxi-like business model, be used by a variety of delivery actors, including individuals as well as businesses. So after the Amazon delivery I use the drone to take a parcel to the post office for delivery to an eBay buyer.

The drones could hitch a lift on people's autonomous vehicles. Amazon would give you a roof rack and pay you when it rides on; they can hook in to your GPS and schedule to anticipate routing.


We all have windows - and many of those windows open. A basket that hangs outside the window with a battery powered beacon is another option for delivery. The baskets could even be secure and waterproof.

Instead of a battery-powered beacon you would likely use fiducials [0].

The issue I see with delivery to windows is all the clutter that is commonly found in front of windows such as power lines, tree branches etc. since that cannot yet be easily detected with computer vision and inexpensive 3D sensors.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiduciary_marker

"1: These could deliver into my apartment on the nth floor by coming through an open window, as well as the mentioned balconies and front yards or the roof."

This is what I would like. Even if they use a regular delivery truck most of the way, it would be great if they could cover the last fifty feet with a drone, to leave the package on my balcony.

(Amazon's switched to using their own courier service in my area. They make one delivery attempt only and won't leave packages at the door. So right now I can't use Amazon any more.)

Technically, this seems really hard, since GPS might not be enough---too much interference close to the building, trees. But maybe it is possible to get enough onboard visual processing to make it doable. Pretty interesting research problem.

I think tree branches will be a rather large problem for these drones since you need a pretty high resolution 3D sensor to accurately detect them.

GPS is most certainly not enough for navigation next to a building since you can hardly get an accuracy below 5m. I would bet on navigation by computer vision and 3D sensors.

Another interesting aspect of this is the choice of location where to drop the package. You certainly would not appreciate finding your emergency math textbook in the middle of your flower bed. This could for example be solved by setting up delivery spots in advance, or perhaps by using human judgement through something like Amazon's Mechanical Turk.

This could for example be solved by setting up delivery spots in advance, or perhaps by using human judgement through something like Amazon's Mechanical Turk.

You'll just get your Amazon Prime Beacon™ which you just put on the floor and sends out little pulses to guide the drone.

I love the image of a drone hovering in front of my window, waiting for me to let it in.

But I doubt it's technically feasible.

If range is a problem, a drone could move a package to the next depot and leave it with another drone, or use that stop to replace its battery before continuing.

I could deliver to the nth floor with a giant slingshot, angry birds style.

Heh. "Angry Retailers."

Apart from the Scifi-ness of having drones work well in the best of conditions, the back-up infrastructure required to support bad conditions would seem to make the whole venture unrealistic.

Let's say that a little drone could reliably carry a package to doorsteps 10 miles away. Let's assume that it can navigate past trees and power lines and kite strings and so forth.

So Amazon builds up these service centers with hundreds of drones delivering packages in a metro area to meet their delivery time commitments.

Then you get a few weeks of bad weather: regular daily thunderstorms, snow storms, a great deal of gusty weather, etc.

Do the delivery time commitments have caveats for consistently bad weather? Unless you live in California, you have to deal with days and days of rain or other foul weather that will eliminate a drone's ability to fly safely, much less be able to deliver a small package without damaging the contents.

When that happens, Amazon will need to maintain a fleet of trucks with drivers to take over. Maintaining that capacity will deeply cut into the profit of their business model.

It's just another option to add to the mix. Not everyone chooses next-day delivery, not everyone will choose 30-min delivery; the classic delivery infrastructure will likely remain in place. The service will just periodically be disabled: "due to severe weather in your area, PrimeAir is currently not available. Please check back later, or choose standard delivery."

It's still a question of capacity. Any drone deliveries that need to be made will take away from other delivery capacity. Given that standard vehicle delivery will be much more time consuming and much less parallelized than the drone delivery, drone outages will place a thrashing level of load on standard delivery unless a great deal of unutilized standard delivery capacity is kept idle most of the time.

That costs money.

[edit: typo fixed]

That's more of a question for FedEx and UPS. Of course existing contracts with Amazon will require tweaking, but I don't see how drone-outage periods will be much different from other volume spikes.

That doesn't seem like a difficult problem to solve. Delivery isn't free, even if the customer isn't the one paying for it. If standard delivery becomes more expensive due to the weather-linked bursty nature of the load requiring additional provisioning, you just need to charge more for standard delivery. Which I'd expect a company like amazon to implement as a fair-weather discount, given the propensity of humans to be loss averse.

Isn't that already the case when bad weather strikes? Delivery trucks take longer to drive around in bad rain, or blizzards, or unpredictable traffic (resulting from accidents or road closures). The slower the truck, the more of them you need.

Why can't Amazon just have the service be weather dependent like any air service? If some place has weather that makes drone delivery difficult, the option will be turned off.

They'll look at the weather in the next 30 minutes and judge whether or not the drone can fly. Pretty simple, right?

> Maintaining that capacity will deeply cut into the profit of their business model.

What profit?

One in ten Americans, and likely a much larger portion of Amazon's customer base, and probably an even larger fraction of their revenues, is in California. So even if this only worked here, it could still be a wise investment.

The real-time nature of knowing that would allow them to turn on/off air delivery based on conditions or backup. I think the perfect world would be a combination of air and land autonomous vehicles. Maybe even the vehicles take it the last mile and it is flown in more robust air delivery drones more weather proof. Over time I am sure this will happen in some way.

I don't think that rain, snow, or modest winds should be problematic for any properly equipped drone.

I've flown gas and electric helicopters and airplanes as a hobby over the years. These small aircraft are very susceptible to bad weather. They're already going to be carrying a significant load with an attached package.

They won't be able to handle a great deal of weather adversity.

> They won't be able to handle a great deal of weather adversity.

I have less experience than you in the field, but I suspect that Amazon would not be promulgating such a service if it had such obvious fatal flaws.

Apple was talking about its "Knowledge Navigator" back in the 80s -- not because it had the technology. It still doesn't have that level of technology 25 years later.

They did it to generate some buzz and to foster the notion that they were a technological leader.

Have you flown computer-controlled multirotors? There's a big difference between fixed wing aircraft or helicopters and computer-controlled multirotors. These things are highly sophisticated and capable of making thousands of adjustments to the speeds of their rotors every second.

Amazon already has a fleet of trucks, plus the ability to use UPS and USPS. In conditions where the drones can't operate they'll just fall back to conventional delivery options.

I think that a lot of comments here are missing a crucial point: in the next few years unmanned vehicles are going to play a major role in most of the transportation landscape, whereas this is for people or objects.

Amazon here is trying to play the same role that Google has been playing for a long time with their self driving cars. They are setting a standard and pushing for regulations and laws.

It is not that difficult to think that the future of unmanned vehicles won't be as naive as people may think. There will probably be a combination of different sets of vehicles that would go around for large distances and/or sizes, and different vehicles covering smaller distances and/or sizes. They can be used in series to optimize the traveling salesman problem in terms of what's powering these vehicles.

It's not that different from thinking of an ant-like distribution system.

And not that different from the Google approach of crawling the web, then crawling the actual world with google street view cars, eventually moving into self driving cars. Except you'll also get lots of metadata with it, that can be used and sold.

Amazon is now part of the game, moving the attention to drones and self flying objects.

I disagree that they're making the same play as Google. Google has never claimed they're going to make a self-driving car, or offer it as a service. As far as I can tell with a few minutes of googling, they don't even have a home page for the project. It's a research project and a tool to "push" the law in the direction Google wants.

Amazon, on the other hand, is 100% offering a product. It has a name, and they indicate a plan to, "enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place." This is partially about getting into the game early, but it's also focused on a product in a way that Google's car isn't.

The recent New Yorker piece on Google's driverless cars makes it very clear that Google's intention from day one was to bring this to market as a product, even if it requires partnering with another company: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/11/25/131125fa_fact_...

I don't think we disagree on that. I'm not talking about the product side of things. I said and mean that Amazon is pushing for standards, regulations, laws etc. also by showing the possible demand side.

The reason why Google doesn't have a product, can be for multiple reasons, for example because they may (who knows) only want to create an Android OS-like self driving system, not necessarily building the cars. It's the same they did with smart phones.

If they want to dominate the car OS market, they might not need to present it as a product at this stage.

They just need, as Amazon, to push it enough to gain momentum and be one of the early players.

Brick-and-mortar stores are doomed. I can only see a few types of products remaining in brick-and-mortars: Clothes that you want to try for size, fruits and vegetables that you want to sample, and restaurants... any others?

Wouldn't it make sense for a drone to bring you a size to try on? If it's right - you keep it ... if not, you send it back via the drone in exchange for a different size?

Or send multiple at once, keep the one that fits.

My parents still buy EVERYTHING in brick and mortars. I work in a retail store, selling computers and accessories. People tell me it's dead, I can guarantee you it's not. Maybe when our parents generations are gone, but not until then.

Capitalism fetishizes growth, not revenue. If the business isn't growing it will not attract investment dollars, and will quickly have a hard time staying competitive.

Brick and mortars ought to pivot into the showroom business, à la Sony or Apple stores. That is practically what many have become (cough Best buy cough); the least they can do is charge manufacturers/distributors for display space.

That implies that they can get the manufacturers to pay them. BTW, explicit manufacturer showcasing is pretty uncommon today. You have the manufacturers' stores (Apple, Microsoft) and you have some limited showcasing in large retailers like B&H for photo. But it's pretty uncommon.

Furniture is still a bit difficult to evaluate online, and quite complex to deliver.

If I could drone in some furniture and land it on my balcony it would open up a hell of a lot more options than having to get it up my microscopic 3 story staircase.

I think you'd need a helicopter for that - or wait for Amazon Blimp™ airship delivery.

A recent trip to the Westfield Mall showed that's just about happened already. Almost every store there was selling clothing or some other product people would want to try before they buy. I you have to wonder with online delivery becoming the norm if those kinds of retail shops will become more marketing showrooms than drivers of actual sales for brands.

Robotic sewing machines, 3D printers, downloadable textile construction packages, and motion sensors paired with modeling software to try on virtual clothes will someday end retail clothing as well.

The need to sample things by taste (or other senses) could also conceivably end in the near future through downloads of software packages consisting of instructions for chemical synthesis of tastes and appropriate output settings for the sensory simulation hardware. [1]

[1] http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22029444.500-electrode...

Why try on clothes? http://www.jhilburn.com/

Why? Because that costs thousands of dollars more for a wardrobe than trying on off-the-rack clothes, and I'm certain it takes longer.

Um, $165 isn't bad for a cashmere sweater (though to be honest I don't know anything about the quality of the stuff on this site). I took note because I don't know of a custom shirt place in Boulder, and I miss the 3 or 4 that were near my place in Houston. I hear professional women really appreciate having nice custom shirts as well.

The cashmere sweaters aren't custom though.

Correct, but hopefully they'd fit. I have a couple of yak wool sweaters from Khunu, and they run really small. Luckily my first one ended up fitting my girlfriend well enough for her to keep it. The replacement I got fits very well, and is generally amazing (as sweaters go). Now I office out of the same space as one of the co-founders too :)

I'm just saying, if you look at off the rack dress shirts they'll be $30-$60, similarly with most of the other items. Sure, it might be better quality, and it'll certainly fit better, but I can't afford $1600 for ten shirts. $400 sounds a lot better, and I'm not jumping up to run and get that deal either.

That's fair I suppose. I won't argue in favor of spending more just for the privilege of doing so. But A quick look at Banana Republic puts the rack price in the $60 to $125 range, and I'd hope there is a noticeable quality difference between 'fancy gap' and tailored clothing.

Heavy items or things you need to buy in bulk - e.g. building and gardening supplies. Where the cost of delivery would be astronomical.

as long as there's free delivery/cheap delivery I would agree. However if the delivery charges are half the price of the item. No thanks, will go my ways finding the same deal in local dealers. Edit: I forgot about pickups, I guess that counts as online. Maybe true, then

bookstores, where one can browse more than the cover and a few pages

What prevents a company from offering a time-limited preview of an ebook?

There's still a fairly large difference between a time limited preview of an ebook and a time limited preview of a book.

What differences, would you say? Of course an ebook is a little less readable, but other than that, I can't think of any major differences.

Wouldn't this be covered by restaurants? Just places where people gather to relax, eat, drink, read, chat quietly.

Jewellery. Tiffany & Co isn't going anywhere.

It doesn't seem like the battery density exists for anything except fairly short distances with very small packages. For the vast majority of deliveries, this could only be a "last mile" mechanism, with the bulk of each delivery happening via more traditional transport. 30-minute delivery from the warehouse? Not going to be possible for 99% of purchases, even those that are under the weight limits.

Moreover, you can't just have hoardes of flying vehicles randomly over populated areas (and if this was at all practical, every company and its dog company would be trying to do the same thing), so you'd need fairly strict regulations on where they actually fly, and a system for managing them (e.g. limiting the number of flights by all companies). They'd probably need to do things like limit the paths that could be followed, maybe above public roads (which would reduce the delivery radius). Whatever happens, the (necessary, because it involves public safety and contention for a limited common resource) regulation and government control is going to slow the process down, probably a lot more than Amazon's timeline suggests...

Even if they could grind through all the problems, get government support, and setup a system to do final delivery of very small purchases by air... is the investment required to do all this worth it to be able to deliver a vanishingly small proportion of packages more quickly?

What this really looks like is an unintentional leak of Amazon's next April 1st gag...

>What this really looks like is an unintentional leak of Amazon's next April 1st gag

… by CBS News? Don't think so.

Actually, contention for air space wouldn't be that bad.

Modern airplanes have a pressure transponder which announces your flight id and the air pressure at your location. From which you can determine a direction, id, and altitude.

Create an automated ATC, some simple separation rules (100' vertical, 500' horizontal), and order that drones flying east are on odd multiples of 100', westbound flights on even multiples. You know where thing is and where it's going. Maybe add in some prohibited zones around airports or tall buildings and you are pretty much done.

The thing is, if this idea proves viable, there are going to be (or at least there will be demand for) many orders of magnitude more of these than there are traditional types of air vehicles... And because of the very short range, much of that will probably be in dense urban areas (so it won't be anything like evenly distributed).

So... I dunno if traditional approaches to avoiding airspace contention will work so well...

Perhaps, but would the air traffic be any worse than road traffic?

Say you had 5 flight levels each direction, so 10 'levels' in all. Would we have more than an order of magnitude more flight traffic than road traffic? I would argue no.

Would we have more than an order of magnitude more flight traffic than road traffic? I would argue no.

We might. This sort of disruptive innovation could be staggering in scope. I could imagine putting in an order for a weekly grocery bill and having dozens of drones deliver the items from all over the place. Currently, we have an infrastructure that assumes we'll ship myriad items to a centralized clearing house (hub topology). It'd actually be far more efficient to eliminate this redundant, single point of failure and build something more akin to a mesh network. Items such as locally grown produce may even be shipped directly from farm to doorstep.

What about N and S? What about manned experimental aircraft? What about unmanned RC aircraft?

Battery density is not that much of a problem. Supply from warehouse to moving warehouse vehicle (truck?) to multiple delivery vehicles (drones). Parallellise and automate the last mile.

bezos said the current range is 10 miles on 60 minutes.

> battery density

Why wouldn't these drones be gasoline powered?

A quadrotor (or 8-rotor here) drone depends on rapidly throttling the propeller speed on each arm up and down, something that you can't do with a mechanical transmission without adding a lot of weight. You can do a gas/electric hybrid, but again, weight.

I kind of also wonder why not a more traditional articulated rotor helicopter design. The point of the quadrotors is they're cheap and simple, despite being much less efficient. Surely the capital investment in a full fleet of these things would favor a true helicopter rotor.

Noise would be an issue with gas powered drones.

Cars aren't that noisy, and drones are going to be high up in any case.

Cars don't have eight rotor blades slapping the air, and we've gotten pretty good at enclosing all the loud bits (on expensive cars). Noise would certainly be a problem for gas-powered drones.

And gas powered cars are a lot louder than electric cars.

To minimize noise and visual pollution, it would be better for these drones to fly low, along existing roads to take advantage of existing noise abatement measures (e.g. noise barriers walls, berms, roadside vegetation, etc.)


>>I had to seriously check to see it wasn't April 1st. It isn't.

Honestly; I'm still not sure if this is a joke or not. This totally fits the kind of stuff Google likes to do on April 1st.

If this became real, I'd go out of my way to order things just to see that show up at my door. And I'm sure it won't be long until people plan on catching the device when it shows up. Even I probably couldn't resist the temptation of catching it and I'll probably have to pay a penalty, but it'd be worth it.

I'm pretty certain they are serious. Internally, I don't know if they really think this is going to become something right away, but I think AMZ knows that there's possibility in this field and I think they hope that this move spurs some research and progress in this area by other companies and kickstarts the needed legal structure from the government agencies in question.

If this develops more promise they will be well positioned to take advantage of it.

They'll probably include a smoke beacon/flare of some type, ostensibly to make crash sites more visible, but probably most utilized as a deterrent to would-be trappers who don't want their house to be filled with obnoxious sensory effects like smoke, odor, or alarm. Not to mention, assuming their navigation systems remain functional, it shouldn't be too hard for the drone's owner to locate and reclaim their property.

It's a R&D project and the video footage shown on 60 Minutes was a combination rendering and marketing video, so we shouldn't really assume that this future is already written. You're seeing mockups.

I think it's safe to assume that Amazon is publicizing this now to help get the public on their side in any future regulatory disputes.

As a society we are going to have to figure out a lot of rules regarding drones, safety and privacy very quickly. I hope we are up to that task.

This is one of those things where I check the calendar and the URL three times each, then still don't really believe it. I think I'll check the calendar again.

It's always April 1 somewhere.

Though I can't help but think Cyber Monday eve has a lot more to do with it.

It was on NBC or whatever, and they stated a "less than 5lbs" limit, which covers ~84% of their product base.

I wonder whether this might necessitate the creation of a kind of "landing pad" with bluetooth LE beacons to signal to the approaching drone where to deliver the goods, that and/or a Santa's Chimney-like chute (I'm thinking apartment complexes) that can obviate the need for the drone to "land" at human level.

One also marvels at the possibility for home-to-home delivery, say, for used items, or the ability to have returned items "picked-up" by these drones. A fascinating avenue.

Why would they announce it now. . . let's see a day before Cyber Monday and my guess is that 1) they are sincerely doing this, but 2) they are aware up the inevitable PR uptick the day before the busiest online shopping event of the year. Nice move to garner a lot a free attention that will result in greater overall (non-drone-delivered) sales.

Great idea, for small items. A few other companies are exploring this, but with the funding from Amazon, and the scale Amazon delivers at, it could make a lot of sense for them - they could actually make this a reality. I'd try this out just to see the Octocopter coming in to land.

Weight will be a problem I guess, as many of the things Amazon delivers are larger and would be difficult to carry on a drone unless it was a significant size. So small items only, at least initially.

I did also wonder about landing spots - these things are going to need a guaranteed flat spot to land, so that they are not damaged and can take off again, but I guess with a smartphone the user could indicate their preferred landing spot via GPS.

And of course there is an issue with airspace and regulation, which I guess will be their biggest hurdle - flight paths over cities could get pretty busy quite quickly, and you'd need some sort of one way system or sophisticated traffic control to avoid collisions, so a bit of a headache for authorities to coordinate, but these are all soluble problems.

Oh man, I started reading about this 20 minutes ago, and now already have a mental image of the landing platform that I'll install on the roof of my house.

They probably didn't say anything about when this will come to rural Germany, did they?

Has anyone calculated the energy usage of sending a 1kg package 10km alongside 100s of other packages on a diesel powered UPS truck vs sending it by itself, hanging below a battery powered octacopter? How much more/less energy does the octacopter consume per package?

Rather calculate the diesel powered truck doing 80% of the distance to delivery place, and the drones flying the last 20% of the distance from the truck.

Well, not a day goes by that I don't already hear multiple airplanes and even more gas powered leaf blowers from my back yard.

I expect drones will increase that form of ambient noise in my neighborhood substantially.

Those who live in high vehicle traffic areas may not notice a difference.

Waterstones, one of UK's biggest bookseller has just announced its response to Amazon's Prime Air: O.W.L.S = Ornithological Waterstones Landing Service


Will there be pirate drones that fly around looting the Amazon drones?

Yes. An it will be awesome.

Yes, just like there are pirate cars that drive around looting UPS trucks.

I recall reading about shipments of Pentium (II?) processors being hijacked from trucks. I believe some people were even killed. The value of a truckload of new Intel processors is rather high though. Enough that someone may decide the risk in an armed robbery is worth it.

UPS trucks would be a lot better target. More then 5 lbs worth of stuff in the back of one of those.

A lot of people live in apartments. I assume they'll be excluded from this.

Also related: http://tacocopter.com/

It would be great if it would drop packages on my balcony. Then I don't have to be home but it's safe and I don't have to pick it up from the leasing office when they open.

Safe? I'll send my drone to steal your balcony package seconds after Amazon has left.

Delivery to a balcony could solve a lot of door drop off theft issues.

Sounds nice, but I assume balcony drop off theft would rise as a result

Above the 2nd floor, it would be quite hard to pull off.

I agree. His theory sounds like a reach, and rises to the height of absurdity; who could buy such a story?

...I'll stop now.

Nothing an Amazon-Prime-Air-follower-and-grabber drone couldn't handle!

Illegal drone-hunting drones sold on the black market out of China, with R&D sponsored by Russian gangsters…

Some of us grew up reading cyberpunk novels and ended up living in one. It feels… weird.

...from another drone picking it up.

One can imagine apartment buildings being fitted with rooftop chutes for this express purpose.

At least in my apartment, this would almost be easier than a traditional delivery since they can just leave it on the roof. I think a lot of buildings have roof access, which would be a great/secure spot to leave your packages.

Apparently tacocopter is closer to satire than a prank. It's a vision of how drones could be used in the future once regulation gets figured out.


The only way I could imagine this working in even moderately densely populated areas is with some sort of landing pad. Maybe it's as simple as laying out a ~3' square cardboard pad with a QR code or some other fiducials, or maybe as complex as an active beacon or GPS enabled pad.

Avoiding powerlines seems like a fairly tough problem as well. Are drone-sized object sensors (ultrasonic? LIDAR?) accurate enough to see thin power lines?

Let's take a strategic look at this. Its a shot across the bow at Google Shopping Express, Ebay Now, InstaCart (to an extent), TaskRabbit (meh maybe), and all the others focusing on the same day delivery business.

Its also a direct shot at Walmart, whose customers in non-dense cities all have a store within 30 min drive of their location. Walmart isn't in the big cities (in their normal fashion), walmart is suburbs. Target is suburbs. Walgreens/CVS might worry about this too, as it could kill a bunch of impulse or time sensitive shopping if amazon ran this 24/7.

Things to consider: - what is the cost per drone? - what is the cost to operate? Fuel? are these fully autonomous?

This paired with self-driving cars is potentially shifting the dynamics of delivery companies (imagine if the ups driver was just a guy in the truck, not driving it). Or the truck had 2 delivery guys, neither one driving...

Anyway, I see this as a fascinating experiment.

Worth looking into as well: http://matternet.us/ this has been around a while. I heard of it through singularity university people.

UAV quadcopters are kinda amazing and getting amazing-er by the year. (I spent too long looking over http://www.helipal.com this weekend.)

You can buy one for under $400 with auto-hover, GPS return-to-home, and built in cameras (or a gopro gimble attachment). Sadly, they only get about 5 to 10 minutes of flight time.

The awesome part is, (and I'm pulling numbers out of my ass here) for a 10 dollar delivery fee, or maybe a 100 dollar subscription to prime air with an average of ~10 items shipped), this thing would pay itself off within days.

I assume that the kind of quadcopter that could lift a few kg and had decent flight time would probably run you 3-4k with today's tech, at consumer prices. Even then, a fairly good investment. At bulk prices with 4 years in the future tech, this thing would pay for itself in no time.

Hope they get the FAA on board!

I've been checking them out too. Really cool tech. I spent a couple hours watching people's Phantom2 drones get lost/damaged on YouTube today. Convinced me when I eventually decide to get one, it won't be that model unless they've fixed its tendency to attempt a get-away.


I have two remarks or questions.

The person who receives the package doesn't have to (or cannot) sign for it apparently.

How difficult is it to shoot down such a drone to get the loot, if you will. Might become a sport for some folks.

Considering how signatures are mostly a farce (I routinely sign for my wife or my neighbours, who do the same for me), that's not a big deal: you'll just choose "classic" delivery via courier if you're really worried about that.

Interception is a real problem though, especially in high-crime areas. You could reduce it with some sort of hardened container which can be opened only with a certain code.

> Interception is a real problem though, especially in high-crime areas. You could reduce it with some sort of hardened container which can be opened only with a certain code.

Any container that is sufficiently "hardened" enough to stop any trivial access attempt would also be much heavier/larger (or have a smaller internal volume) - which would require a larger drone or a shorter distance. And short of carrying a safe, there's probably little you could do to prevent someone from getting at the goods.

Interestingly enough, the country that is likely to allow the use of delivery drones into regulations is also the country with the highest number of guns-per-capita.

> Interestingly enough, the country that is likely to allow the use of delivery drones into regulations is also the country with the highest number of guns-per-capita. - FAA roadmap mentioning Cargo transport via drones: http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/media/UAS_Roadmap_2.... The correlation is absurd and doesnt make any sense.

I think you've misunderstood the point of the signature.

If they drop it next door, they note which house they dropped it at and also have a signature to show someone actually took it.

The point is not to show that a particular person received the package, but that someone received the package. 99.9% of the time that's enough. If it wasn't and was impacting their bottom line, they'd have started taking photos of recipients by now.

I assume the delivery must be made available on private property to avoid the case of stealing when the drone drops the package.

As for the shooting, well it is illegal and would be punished. The copter would very probably be equipped with a video camera with a feed streaming back home which would help recognize the attacker. Then after a few publicized examples, most people would cease such activities.

Why do you believe it would be any different from robbing the same people who make the deliveries today?

Cool tech, but I question the practicality of it. This seems fraught with problems that a human on a bike wouldn't have. They're also entirely unsuitable for urban areas.

No, they're not entirely unsuitable for urban areas. Instead, their (relatively) short range means that they're unsuitable for anything except urban areas.

If designed poorly, they would be very unsafe, but there are plenty of ways to increase the safety. For example, notice that the drones have more than 4 rotors. This gives a bit of redundancy so that a motor can fail without causing the drone to crash.

Can't wait until the first time one shreds a customer's dog, (or face, child, etc.) as it tries to deposit a package on her front porch.

Why does this thing even have to land?

Can't it drop each package with a mini parachute from about roof-top level with good accuracy? Or even 10ft, just above the height of most kids, dogs, cars and adults.

Skycrane landing. I've been reading and reading and can't believe it hasn't been mentioned - the drone simply unreels the payload on a cable while hovering until it gets to the ground. Then you either detach the clips, or, use a disposable cable and just clip the wires at the drone-end (saves on possibly tangles).

If we're talking about urban areas, and since most people in urban areas live in highrises, where would it even land on?

I'm sure there's a solution, it's incredibly fun to think about.

edit: Maybe install a landing pad by the window? People are allowed to install satelite receivers there right? Why not a small landing pad

My apartment building has a large rooftop deck. It would be easy to set up a package drop zone or something for the drones to use.

If the drones are really good, I have a balcony they could easily land on to deliver packages right to my place in a pretty secure way.

Also, given the timeframe (30 minutes), the drone could just text me to go outside and I could pick it up on the sidewalk outside my apartment.

As the regulatory and commercial frameworks evolve, I can see how buildings would have dedicated landing zones (likely on roofs)… the XXI century equivalent of mailboxes.

The whole thing shouldn't weigh very much, assuming it's limited to delivering lightweight objects, and the rotors could be covered with a screen. I don't see much potential for danger. The worst thing that could happen would be a total system failure causing it to drop out of the sky, and even that could probably be mitigated with something like a failsafe that deploys a parachute if the speed is too high.

It should be safer than multi-ton delivery trucks, which can and have killed people. I was a mailman at one time - we were required to get out and look behind the truck before backing up because a mailman once killed a toddler who wandered behind his truck (though I doubt very many carriers actually follow that rule).

so install a drone landing pad on the roof..

Urban areas but don't you have to exclude apartments too.

Good point. I come from a low-rise city (Christchurch, New Zealand) so I'd forgotten about that. I suppose you could designate a safe spot, perhaps on the roof of the apartment?

I'm not sure why this keeps being mentioned. Seems easy enough to build a common landing zone for pickups. Roof, open grass area, etc. If you were an apartment owner, is there no way you could think of solving that issue?

Landing on roofs? Balconies? Amazon mini-helipad mounted outside your window? :-). buildings built to accommodate drone delivery (usable by usps/fedex/ups/drugstores/pizza, food delivery?)

The vast majority of the US isn't in an urban area, where these would thrive (presuming they could get the distance thing down).

Edit: maybe not (see below).

Actually, 80% of US citizens are in "urban areas." http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/2010_census...

Interesting, thanks for the research. I guess I shouldn't be too shocked, but it is a bit surprising (we have an enormous land mass).

Yeah, we have a lot of land, but you wouldn't want to live there...

I'm glad you don't. :).

Are you considering land mass or where people actually live? Large sections of the country are practically unpopulated.

> This seems fraught with problems that a human on a bike wouldn't have.

The problem is, that human would insist on being paid for their labor.

> problems that a human on a bike wouldn't have

Seriously, why the need for flight? Why not unicycle delivery drones?

A unicycle drone would have to navigate the streets and avoid people. This thing won't need to have as-complicated navigation.

Why release this now ? Seems to be more of a marketing ploy to bump up prime membership to compensate for the shrinking margins/revenue.

Highly interesting and forward thinking nonetheless !

People are probably sick of Black Friday by now and still need to buy holiday presents. Excellent marketing timing. Kudos to Bezos.

I think not only Amazon is investing in this. Some delivery companies in China are already playing with drones for while:


So why is this so surprising?

One point I'd like to make on this:

There's the obvious question, why bring up the subject now when they don't even have the technology ready? The answer is easily revealed by the response: to get over the giggle factor as early as possible. Right now much of the commentary is about how ridiculous or silly this is, but that will fade with exposure and with publicity of successes in testing.

There are lots of things that have the same problem. Legalized marijuana, space tourism, reusable launch vehicles, manned mars missions, 3D printed organs, etc. Often times it's as important to get over the giggle factor as it is to build something that works. Personal computers and tablet computers ran into the same problem, but once people stopped thinking of them as toys people got down to the business of making practical use of them.

This is an awesome idea of course. It's a glimpse into the future.

I remember tweeting with Chris Anderson of 3D Robotics about a year ago about autonomous package delivery from A > B. I'm sure Bezos and team started nerding out on this concept years ago.

Eventually, "vehicles" the size of UPS trucks will be delivering packages autonomously all over the world. This is definitely a glimpse into that day.

And it won't end at just packages, you're going to see food, produce, perishables, medicine (bye bye pharmacy pickups) and many more products delivered to the home via drone.

This is without a doubt the future.

However, like every awesome idea it comes with a boatload of challenges that need to be addressed and I fear some will be extremely difficult if not impossible to overcome.

Off the top of my head, I see a few issues with Amazon Prime Air, some will be resolved, and some won't, but that's the beauty and uncertainty when taking on rather innovative approaches to existing problems.

1. The FAA situation. Drones are going to have _very_ restricted airspace especially in populated metro areas, if the FAA grants them these privileges at all. If you look at Los Angeles/SF/NYC/DC/Boston, you see airspace that is so overcrowded that I just don't see how drones are going to be zipping around here. BUT, most US cities are urban areas, so if we lose delivery to the dense metropolis, this product could work very well. Just like you see in the video.

2. Aside from airspace regulations in popular cities, you have building density, apartments/condos that will make it tough to service (unless these buildings have custom built "delivery stations" somewhere, and that's a cool idea). So it's a glimpse into the replacement of the traditional mailbox. Now that's cool.

3. Package weight will certainly be a concern but Prime Air will still cover an enormous amount of items from Amazon. And I believe Prime Air will allow Amazon to actually expand their product catalog with previously-undeliverable items via traditional freight (food, perishables, medicine, etc.)

4. Humans. Humans are always a problem. You'll have kids/idiots trying to steal and shoot these things down. This is a minor problem that won't necessarily end, but people will get in trouble and they'll pay fines/etc.

5. Safety. Safety is important, Amazon will do whatever it can to prevent kids/adults from getting sliced by these blades but I think that this is inevitable.

6. Hardware failure. Sure, 4 rotors and redundancy. But we all know a few of these things are going to drop out of the sky with a box of wrenches and slam into someones car/face/house/bike/restaurant... That won't be good. But is it even possible to ensure this doesn't happen? Boeing airplanes fall out of the sky...

7. Weather. Be in no doubt these drones will drop left and right, lose course, altitude, etc. with sudden gusts of winds, environmental factors, etc. They're getting better but it's physics at play here.

All in all there are plenty of challenges to an awesome and risky endeavor.

What I don't really understand is WHY. What's the net-gain for Amazon. Will this ever fully replace UPS/USPS shipping for them? Maybe... But it will take at least 20+ years.

I somewhat see this as an experiment for Bezos and company. The R&D and hardware costs far exceed the pennies on the dollar they pay for UPS shipping. But it has that COOL FACTOR to it. It smells like the future. Would you pay extra for 30-minute delivery? Maybe a few times... I wonder about the utility here...

The "Why" has to do with increasing market size for Amazon.

If they can deliver small items to you in 30 minutes with no delivery fee, all sorts of things you need in the very short term stop being a trip to the store and become a drone shipment from Amazon. This opens up HUGE markets for them.

I also think people are thinking of the distribution network a bit wrong. They can keep a large number of items in a small space, particularly if the warehouse becomes sort of like those old magnetic tape storage robots you used to see. You could condense an entire Wallgreen's (almost every item of which is drone-able) down to a large room. So the practicality of having a number of them in a city becomes more and more viable. Of course you'd have software optimizing for the most common items on a per-distribution center basis (I bet Amazon already does this on a macro scale).

Add in long-haul robotic trucks feeding the distribution centers and you can see where this is going.

Yeah they can make use of the model employed by tesco in South Korea[1]. Instead of trips to the grocery store, you can just tell amazon to deliver to your place. Ran out of batteries for your remote? Amazon! Heck, Amazon Book store would benefit LOADS from this. So yes, not only does this open up new markets, it also improves their existing businesses as well. No one likes to wait. And they could cash in on that! (Not to mention it would be pretty cool receiving stuff by drones) :P

[1] http://gajitz.com/worlds-first-virtual-grocery-store-now-ope...

I can see an Amazon Prime subscription coming with some type of landing pad dongle. You lay out your mat & dongle somewhere, put in an address and the drone flies to the address, listens for the signal from the dongle and drops the package on the 'X' if the details match. My bank currently gives me a two-factor dongle for secure logins, same type of approach for authenticating delivery and indicating a safe landing area.

There is a lot of really interesting problems to solve to turn this into a commercial service. Would be very fun to work on.

The last mile, the landing, might one day be a combination of a drone and a vehicle. It can fly but land and drive up to prevent injury, and use driveable tech as well as drone tech. It would advance both fields and maybe get us to flying cars one day, of course we'll probably never fly them ourselves, just computers. Autonomous drones and delivery vehicles would be awesome.

This is a very nice mod of the flying drone delivery idea: flying in the long range, over safe zones like highways, and then scooting down the last mile in densely populated regions.

>The FAA situation. Drones are going to have _very_ restricted airspace especially in populated metro areas, if the FAA grants them these privileges at all. If you look at Los Angeles/SF/NYC/DC/Boston, you see airspace that is so overcrowded that I just don't see how drones are going to be zipping around here.

How do you figure? Do you realize how big the sky is? For every square foot of land there are tons of layers of airspace above it, and it's almost completely unused except for a few tall buildings and a relatively small number of flying vehicles (compared to what we manage to fit on the ground.)

Drones are fairly maneuverable and could be made with decent collision avoidance and sensors.

In addition to sensor-based collision avoidance you would probably want some means of communication between the drones so they can choose non-colliding flight paths in advance.

In the altitude these drones will be flying most of the regular traffic probably is composed of helicopters. For those Amazon could easily provide some means of requesting a temporary drone no-flight zone.

Ummm.... I couldn't see that video (restrictions on work internet) but AFAIK such small drones can fly up to a certain altitude. Sure you have an insanely large amount of sky up their but can these machines access that?

Imagine how many of these could fit on a single flat road. Then imagine stacking dozens of roads on top of that. Then imagine the roads are several times wider because there isn't any property or buildings in the way up there (with the exception of a few tall buildings in big cities.)

It will be a long, long, long time before we run out of airspace. It isn't the limiting resource at all.

I never doubted that we dont have enough of airspace, my question was can these lightweight machines make proper use of all that open space? how high can they fly? Because i am assuming these are relatively low-altitude aircrafts.

With respect to (1), why would delivery drones fly at high altitudes? I suspect that the only overlap in the flight envelopes of delivery drones and of manned fixed-wing aircraft will be riiiight around the airport, and during horrible plane crashes.

(Manned helicopters are another matter, but how many of those are there really? Even in the big cities.)

I think there's a significant long tail for products that may be eligible for 30-minute delivery. Pretty much the only time I go to a real store to buy something non-perishable is if I'm on a time constraint and can't wait for Amazon to ship the product.

If I need a cable or other electronic peripheral that isn't carried by big box stores, there's exactly one vendor in my metropolitan area that is likely to have it in stock, and they'll unabashedly charge 5x-10x what you'd pay to buy it on Amazon if you had 2-5 days to wait for the package's arrival. I'm sure there are many markets like that right now.

The potential this has to decimate many traditional retailers is super intriguing. What are we going to do with all of that extra space?

This has been coming, and there's also so much room for gains from it. Eli Dourado covered this nicely, I think http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/04/then-internet-now-airsp...

Personally I hope the commercial use of drones become evident and widespread and legislation lags behind it. The last thing we would want is strict military-only licenses for drones out of the fear someone will deliver some explosives to a politician with it.

It is pretty awesome, indeed. I'd say your issues aren't that big, though:

1. FAA is the toughest challenge, true that; 2. A good idea would be to use the roofs for delivery; 3. To add to that, people will buy a membership just for the convenience of getting a lot of small stuff in less than an hour without leaving the house/office. Hard drives, screw drivers, nuts and bolts, stuff for BBQs, etc.; 4. Stealing them will likely end with them being tracked by GPS, found and fined, people will learn not to do it soon enough :); 5/6/7. I think the failure rate will actually be extremely low - quadcopters are very resilient, and we've already seen how amazingly well they can handle the weather, bumping into buildings and flying with three rotors - obviously, Amazon will have to go with the best hardware design;

I think this could be big right away - as I said, many people want immediate delivery and with a subscription model, Amazon won't even have to ship all that often to start making money off of this.

Most apartment buildings don't have accessible roofs, at least where I live.

But if that were possible, it'd be the safest altitude given they manage to avoid wires and antennas.

If they make it to ground level, I think there'd be plenty of people who would try to catch these things.

I don't know about the US, but in the UK there are 'sky lanes' that helicopter pilots must follow.

And in all honesty, this would benefit Amazon, because then they don't require drone pilots. Just programme the 'lanes', rudimentary GPS and proximity sensors and keep the speed down so that collision-avoidance can be activated with sufficient time.


I can imagine FAA approval subject to a register of drone flightpaths and locations, but if something takes a knock from a bird (or malicious interception, as you suggested), I assume that Amazon would schedule a manual pick-up and replacement, wearing the cost in the process.

"You'll have kids/idiots trying to steal and shoot these things down." agree. the fact people can steal it is an issue.

Here is a TED talk which discusses this technology, its cost, and how it is already being used in Africa.


Thanks for the link, that was awesome. I think autonomous, helpful drones will be in our future one way or another.

Yep I agree.

We already have this in China. The SF Express has been testing these for years. Just last year we got the drop off boxes that amazon has been installing in 7-11s installed into our building. It's used for all package deliveries not just amazon.

A possible solution for the location issues: why not have it deliver to a predetermined booth-like location? Think: Redbox.

Of course, this would be much more valuable if it was set up as a open-source-ish thing (where, for instance, an HOA could set up a "Amazon AirPad" for free). But this would greatly reduce some of the problems otherwise inherent in a delivery system like this, such as (but not limited to): Apartments (or duplexes, for that matter), pet/child liabilities, cars, slightly-off coordinates that result in your neighbor or your pool being the drop-off spot, highly dense neighborhoods, highly wooded areas, no-doorstep apartments, etc.

One of my pet dogs growing up always chased the UPS truck (rural area). I can't imagine what it would have done to delivery drones...

In a hypothetical situation where a delivery drone gets sniped by some kid with a 22, what is Amazon's response?

Contact the police and send another.

"Amazon Fulfillment Center Alpha Bravo Six Six Ten, you are cleared hot pickle -- repeat, cleared hot pickle. Good hunting."

It would be really cool if they sent a companion drone for high value items, or maybe even a fleet. You know, for pictures, not artillery or anything..

We've had armed drones for a lot longer than delivery drones. "Please put down your weapon. You have 20 seconds to comply. You are in direct violation of Amazon and Federal Penal Code 1.13, Section 9."

"This drone will auto-destruct and explode in 10 seconds. 10,9,8..."

Not much different from the kid shooting the FedEx guy.

Vernor Vinge described a similar rocket-based delivery system in his short story "Fast Times at Fairmont High", which eventually became the novel Rainbows End. Crazy to see this actually happening in the real world.

That was the first thing that came to my mind. It would be interesting to know if that was what inspired amazon or if there was some earlier source that inspired both.


Fast Times at Fairmont High was a reworking of an earlier short story Synthetic Serendipity, which is available online:


> "But don't worry about us." Fred looked upward, somehow prayerful and smug at the same time. "'FedEx will provide, and just in time.'"

> "Jerry was looking upward, at the FedEx shipment falling toward his outstretched hands."

Vinge also has them doing things other than delivery:

> maintenance UAVs flitted like bats around the canyons, popping out nodes here and there.

You really want to see Jacques Tati's "Jour de fête". It's the 14th of July, French national holiday, late 1940s. There is the traditional village fair and party. The village mailman gets inspired by a combination of alcohol consumption and a stunt movie about speedy modern American mail delivery.

An absolutely hilarious prequel to this drone delivery thing, and a must see for people even remotely working on this project or anything similar.

Say you could navigate the package from the warehouse to a persons property, how would you deliver the package while eliminating the risk of injury? My thought would be to have the drone phone home so that a real human could perform/oversee this last stage of delivery. In cities you could see if delivering to a rooftop is feasible to avoid having to negotiate sidewalks/people.

A lot of obstacles in the way here but I would love to see this succeed. I envision a world where a table sized gas powered version of this could carry more packages futher.

Pretty neat concept. But if the goal is to deliver within 30 minutes, I wonder why does amazon need a drone? Domino's certainly dint need a drone to deliver pizza's. Given the cost of research and manufacturing of the drone, I bet this would be just a fancy R&D project. Plus dont forget the lack of accuracy the drone would have, there has to be a manual interception thus questioning the original concept itself. Musk is upto hyperloop, Bezos is upto drones; I think the former one is far more realistic and needed.

Once they have tens of thousands of these operating, i'd imagine per unit cost will fall below $2000 within few years, even accounting for R&D. If it can deliver 10 packages per day (accounting for charge time), that's 3600 deliveries per year. Even if you have to replace it after 1 year, it's 50-60 cents per delivery.

This will be perfect for suburbs nearby metropolitan regions.

Who says amazon won't also deliver pizza?

thats not the point. The point being, there could be other alternatives which could deliver in the same time and be actually developed faster without waiting on FAA regulations to get approved

My point was that maybe pizza (and by your extension most things) is better delivered this way.

I feel like this is the definition of "having too much money."

Thank you, that was the vague feeling I got when I saw it, you expressed my feelings perfectly.

But I'm old and I'll be gone someday. Y'all have fun with it.

Or the PERFECT amount of money ;)

The ire towards "drones" is quite puzzling to me, most technology came from an initial military backing and soon this will be our daily lives.

Right now you can not legally fly a "drone" commercially, all flight by multirotor UAS over US soil is classified as hobby, educational, or government right now. That is where 2015 comes in, the FAA is suppose to make a ruling dictating commercial flight regulations and processes. (http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2012-02/under-newly...)

Currently two vehicles have been certified for flight but they are in a ~20k price range. The estimates on this vehicle are very reasonable for technological advances in the next two years. The opensource community has already created the software technology and a multirotor device of this size could conceivably run for 30min especially with advances is battery and motor/prop technologies.

Perhaps Amazon wants to attempt to shift America's focus on drones, and how they can have positive effects on our lives. Sounds like a good plan especially if they are able to provide emergency supplies to remote locations, or just get us use to them assisting in daily activities.

Wonder what it costs to charge ~15000mah battery vs the driving cost.

It's obviously not ever going on the same scale as Amazons service but there is already something similar underway in Australia: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/push-for-liftoff-o...

Apparently we have very forward thinking laws in regards to UAVs

Any laws we have are forward thinking compared to our new Bikie laws. One step forward for tech, two steps forward for the police state...

Sorry, I'm bitter still. My state is frustrating me.

I know they said it about the milkman, about the Ice delivery guy, about the postman, the morse code telegram specialist, the travel agent and soon, the bank clerk, and anything else brick and mortar. And I know I'm old fashioned and sound like I'm against innovation and progress. (I'm not) But sadly all I can think of is the unemployed delivery people this is going to replace

Guys, this is science fiction getting real and this is kick ass. This is awesomeness. Kudos to JB. And I think this would work without having any big issues. Reasons are:

1. Amazon will wait for the FAA approval before deploying this . This means, the max. weight a copter can carry at any given time would be limited. As some one said, if AMZ starts shipping heavier packages beyond a certain limit there is a risk that it might be dropped and causes injury or death.

2. AMZ would not deliver it across cities. Pls. see the video. It's mentioned that it would be within 30 mins of pressing buy button. This means the radius of the delivery is controlled and monitored from either the fulfillment centers or a central control center.

3. Consider attaching a video camera for delivering the goods. It would also record the whole delivery process for many aspects. It would have a visual footage of who picked it up, whether it was delivered to the correct location etc. This covers legal aspects as well.

4. People would love to have this way of things delivered to them since they would save a lot of time going to the store, spending on gas, waiting in lines etc. oh..btw, this is good environment too. Less gas usage.

Now, the question is how would UPS, FedEx and USPS react to this? They would still be delivering the goods via road to drone inaccessible locations. What if the weather doesn't permit? Would not AMZ have a back up plan of delivering only to the places where weather is not bad? Why would they send the drone into a tornado effected area? Think my fellow HN readers. Think.

Now, the next aspect is security. Can someone spoof the GPS location and re-route the packages? May be. If that's the case, the video recording would help as mentioned earlier.

Walmart, you listening?

FWIW, according to this article, Chinese e-retailer SFEXpress already tested delivery by drones: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/internatio...

Do you get to keep the box? :-) That is a pretty bold vision for product delivery. On the one hand we have "software eating the world" (everything is a download) and on the other "hardware is cool again" (drone delivery). I sometimes think though that this may become this generation's "jet pack."

>>On the one hand we have "software eating the world" (everything is a download) and on the other "hardware is cool again" (drone delivery).

The hardware in this case must be driven by incredibly complex software, both on the drone and in the central HQ that controls the fleet. Without that software, these things would be no different than regular RC quadcopters.

This is awesome - It'll probably take someone like Amazon pushing things to make this happen, and now the pressure is on the FAA to allow this (and figure out how to regulate it).

Can't help but notice they announced this just before Cyber Monday, no doubt it'll drive a lot of traffic - Bezos is a crafty one indeed.

I really don't see this coming before self drivinng cars/van will just drive to your location and open up a hatch for you to collect your goods. Drones are only good for short ranges, light products and not to dense populated locations. Auto driving cars ars would be a hell of a lot more flexible.

Not a new idea. TacoCopter[1] had this idea as a ironic VC joke. It's amazing to see this sort of things are becoming a reality.

Just wondering how much it will cost to be a member after all. Flying a quadcopter is not cheap!

[1] http://tacocopter.com/

> Not a new idea.

Who cares? Why do people always feel compelled to make this kind of comment?

Why not?

TacoCopter sparked a lot of discussion about drone delivery just a while ago. It's nice to be reminded of it, now.

It just goes to shows these ideas are "in the air" right now. In case you weren't paying attention.

Hold on a second, what happens when some birds, winds, or malicious citizens damage the drones? Does Amazon keep sending new ones?

How do the drones deliver to apartment buildings or any address that does not have a lawn?

Would return service work the same way?

I love the product, but a little disappointed by the limited FAQ section.

I expect that, if the service is moderately successful, buildings will quickly adapt somehow (roof landing pads, "drone flaps" etc).

I guess some of the answers related to actual Amazon policy will be clarified whenever the service actually starts (i.e. 2015 at the least).

It seems to me that if this is to seriously take off, it would require a distribution center in every major city, at the very least.

If anyone can pull it off, I think Amazon can.

I wrote a term paper on them for my last class in school, based on the then - predicted entry into grocery delivery.

I feel like Amazon is one of the few large companies that has been innovative and has the possibility to be seriously disruptive to the economy.

Some of what was talked about... same-day delivery of groceries. They'd likely have their own fleet. What does this mean for the existing big name grocers? Same-day delivery of regular merchandise. What would this mean for UPS and/or FedEx?

If I were a Mom & Pop shop, and I knew Amazon was coming to town, that would make me lose sleep at night at least as much as Walmart, if not more.

Isn't it more likely they'll use these drones inside their warehouses to fill orders? Longterm maybe home delivery but they/Bezos have to be planning on using this to process orders inside their warehouses.

so is this all misdirection, or really their longterm plan?

So, this is the wave of the future. Now, how do I make money on this, apart from buying Amazon stock or starting a drone company (which are going under in droves, I should add)? Is this going to be a first-past-the-post thing? I can't see how any other retailer will be able to compete with this, once they start rolling it out, and assuming they won't be offering DDaaS (drone delivery as a service - you heard it here first folks). I'm not sure how much the marginal delivery costs for Amazon are going to be, but this might give them a 10% (!) increased profit in an already very low-margin market? That would obliterate most competition.

There was a story a month or so ago about a company in Australia doing something similar with textbooks: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6550765

My main concern is environmental impact. I'd be interested in an analysis of the effects of producing these drones + environmental cost of powering them + environmental cost of producing those yellow boxes vs. cost of delivery truck

To every person who thinks this won't work out...

...neither will your amazing photo sharing website.

5-7 years out? I bet Bezos also has teleportation on the radar for sometime in the 2200 timeframe. Why didn't he announce that?

All of this is nice, but until someone actually operationalizes this and announces that I can actually have something delivered to my house in 30 minutes, then this means little. As it stands right now, I find Amazon's promise of 2-day delivery to frequently fail (in the SF Bay Area, so a high customer density) and find their non-existent customer support to be frustrating. I would frankly be more excited if I could actually get my packages in 2 days right now than over the future prospect of 30 minute delivery.

To deal with the issues of landing Amazon Prime Air would best be served by sending you a plastic "landing square" when you subscribe so that you designate the place in your garden so that the Drone knows where to land and you can keep an eye on it. With an iBeacon built into it it can guide the drone landing and even use IR to warn the drone of nearby movement/people. This would also serve as a signal to members of the public that it is a potential landing zone (perhaps with a red flashing light when a drone is making a land).

Amazon could even give you a discount if you allow the drone to recharge at your landing point.

Good job on finding that URL. This is really cool to share with my Facebook friends, and I have to like the tone of the ad copy that Amazon is preparing on this page, which is still in testing, as it would appear.

> Good job on finding that URL.


If it's not a joke, the city of the future just got quite a bit noisier.

I didn't believe it was real until I saw this other submission: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6830583

A couple comments have addressed the issue of people potentially shooting down the drones. I think this is very likely, as it appears even a decent slingshot or arrow could take one down if the shooter was close enough.

But another scenario I didn't see mentioned is the potential for the drones to be captured. Let's say a carder orders a delivery to an unoccupied house. When the drone lands, the carder tosses a big net over the drone. Once it's disabled, the control unit can disconnected and either replaced or re-programmed.

Expect deliveries by driverless cars before deliveries by drones

I think a drone is probably more realistic in the short term. A self-driving car still has to get the package from the street to your porch, and while I'm sure someone's working on a little robotic deliveryman, the drone combines both transit and delivery in one package.

Driverless cars. 3D printers. Unmanned drone deliveries. This is gearing up to be the future I've always imagined. I couldn't be more excited and nervous.

When I want to return something will a drone come by and pick up the return? because that has A LOT of value.

Imagine being able to order something on amazon just to 'try it out', you get an hour to make sure x part works, drone hangs around, and if it doesn't you drop it back in the tupperware and the drone flies it back to the fulfillment center and your card is never even charged

I'm surprised I haven't seen more of this mentioned - especially for market place sellers; just sold an item? there's a drone on it's way to collect it!

This will probably end up changing the inter-city courier / logistics greatly.

This is the sort of thing that makes me very glad to be a part of the tech industry. Reading this announcement literally made me giddy.

Amazing, but scary, at the same time. Either way, kudos to the Amazon Team for the idea, very interested to see how this will play out.

If you lookup the history you will learn that, for example, a I-highways in the USA were build for military first, in order to quickly move people and military around the states. Its only later on has been opened to the public.

I say the FAA will keep the air to police, fire departments, cia, fbi, etc, before they open it up to private solutions. Most likely 10 years from now.

Any speculation on what the cost of delivery with this service will be (I'm guessing very few people currently take advantage of the 1-day delivery option, let alone same day, so I would guess this will need to be cheaper than those to be commonplace)?

Also why is this better/faster/cheaper than just hiring someone to deliver things on demand ala TaskRabbit?

I don't understand how this would work without having distribution centers that fully cover the nation to within 30 minutes, and having every item they sell at every such center.

Even if you just want to cut UPS out of the last 30 minute radius and not stock everything at every distribution center... that's still distribution centers everywhere.

Nah. I'm sure they won't promise perfect availability to every customer for every product, at least not initially. There will be a gradual rollout.

But it's not as big a deal as you're making it out to be. They're already able to deliver all their things on a reliable schedule to every house in the US. That's the hard part. To do this, they just need to squeeze some more waste and latency out of the system. They've already proven to be very good at that.

Remember, our current logistics systems already move basically all the goods Americans need to within a 15 minute drive already; they just make customers do the final pickup themselves at distribution centers (which we call stores). This is just switching the last-mile burden from buyers to the seller.

If Amazon gets this working well, there will be plenty of empty big-box stores to serve as local caches.

You would only roll this out to certain areas at a time. Not the entire planet at once.

Wal-Mart and other big chains already has much of that infrastructure in place.

True. I suspect that most places with a fair number of people, even in semi-rural or rural areas, in the US have a walmart within 30 minutes.

Since this service would defeat the purpose of Wal-Mart, I can't see Wal-Mart supporing it, unless there were a merger with Amazon.

But the fact that there are so many Wal-Marts suggests that it might be possible to build sufficient infrastructure that mostly covers the continental US, for example.

I wonder how they'll stop this from being abused. From shooting them down with pellet guns to capturing them as they land.

Like everything else in a civilized country--laws and insurance. Does UPS have a problem with drivers being ambushed or held hostage?

A driver and a truck is a lot larger and completely different from a smaller autonomous device.

And apparently they do occasionally: http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2013/11/25/search-underway-af... http://www.wjla.com/articles/2013/01/ups-driver-robbed-polic... http://www.ksdk.com/story/news/2013/10/20/3091049/ http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/delco/Cops-UPS-driver-kid...

This just makes the robbings easier, as you don't have to deal with a human driver. Much less risk involved, and lower prison sentences when you're not threatening a human and just stealing property.

yep, especially being automatically shot by competitors' hunter war-drones.

But hey, this is evolution. Birds have the same problems. It'll be alright :)

I think that would be the most amazing thing ever. Skies filled with drone battles between various online retailers and pirates trying to steal the cargoes. Imagine Black Friday.

This is a future I look forward to.

To prevent capturing them you could charge a deposit equal to the cost of the drone, when the drone returns safely you get your deposit back.

I'd be more concerned with other folks taking the drone. Giving Amazon my address and then damaging the drone would be foolish.

In the 60min piece, Bezos mentioned 85% of their sold products are 5lbs or less... (wonder if that includes the digital stuff?)

Wouldn't it be something if the drones could wait around for a few mins to allow you to inspect the items for return? :-)

One thing to note is that this isn't technologically far-fetched: military UAVs can deliver multi-hundred-kilogram payloads today. Making this a reality won't require unthinkable technology -- it will require steep reductions in cost, which Amazon is very good at, and acceptance by regulators and the public (anyone's guess).

Dibs on Drone-Santa-Claus-as-a-service startup.

I wonder if this will impact their relationship with couriers.

I guess it's mostly been smooth sailing until now (as Amazon grew, so did they), but this is an actual threat to their business model. Amazon would still need a large amount of classic logistics, but couriers would lose the final mile.

Courier drivers might want to consider a career change very soon.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-unveils-futuristic-plan-d... So guess this just aired, didn't realize.. Here is link to cbs 60 minutes.. Doesn't give much better info than amazons site though.

Well if this becomes a thing then the NSA will be golden once everyone is conditioned to drones flying all over the place.

Next on eBay: PrimeAir the Ripper, automatically targeting, scanning, RF jamming, hijacking PrimeAir delivery drone for your next Macbook.

I mean, even Iranians or someone in the mid-east could hijack US drone(s), how difficult would it be for a 15 yo in the US to figure out how to crack a Prime Air in his/her backyard?

Ehm… you know it's just a marketing stunt for CyberMonday, right?? http://amzn.to/1k6StXg

"Putting Prime Air into commercial use will take some number of years as we advance the technology and wait for the necessary FAA rules and regulations."

Domino’s trials new drone delivery system for pizzas... I think they didnt get the kind of PR Amazon got...


we've been flying with drones (mainly octos) with heavy payloads for a while now - http://londonhelicam.co.uk . RED Epics, Phantom high speed cameras, a lot of expensive and heavy cameras.

The main thing is energy density - the current gen LiPo batteries only allow for about 10-15 mins flight with a reasonable payload. Considering Amazon will have to do a roundtrip, this will not give them a very long range.

The second thing is safety - we never fly above people. I don't think the authorities will allow Amazon to fly over populated areas until the tech is 100% safe, which it isn't yet.

I think we're looking around the same time frame as with self driving electric cars becoming commonplace. Many of the problems with battery life and safety are shared. Maybe around 7 years?

Energy density combined with mechanical efficiency. I could see something like this being viable if they could find a way to make it a hyper-efficient VTOL fixed-wing craft, but quad/hex/octo-copters from an efficiency standpoint are really quite poor electricity-to-thrust converters.

Not so much people have heard of Matternet, a general delivery drones system. The TED talk worth a watch: http://www.ted.com/talks/andreas_raptopoulos_no_roads_there_...

I guess we are getting closer and closer to the Pizza delivery technologies described in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. Entire industries dedicated to getting things into consumer's hands faster and faster. The "now" in "I want it now" keeps getting shorter and shorter.

I really hope they can pull this off, I think it would be amazing. Not only would it be great from a customer's stand point, but think about how much better it would be for the environment. Millions of miles driven by delivery trucks polluting the air being replaced by drones. Outstanding!

what if someone shoots downs these drones for invasion of privacy/trespassing/target shooting etc ?

It will happen but it will also know its location and maybe video. So just like stealing on the street probably, still theft and a more risky option possibly.

It'll have to take evasive maneuvers and return fire ;) Does raise and interesting question though. Will books and other items be dropping out of the sky?

What if they do that with Amazon's current delivery vehicles? Same answer.

they cant/dont encroach into your property

I think your theory here must be the common-law view that if one owns property, one owns it from the core of the earth up to the edge of space. But that hasn't been true since the invention of the airplane: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_rights#United_States

You can't fire a weapon within city limits in most (all?) cities in the U.S.

And you don't own the airspace above your land, or airplanes and helicopters could not fly.

And you don't just shoot at anything in the sky when you're out shooting.

And civil courts exist to fine you heavily for this sort of behavior if it does occur.

Why don't you just shoot at UPS vehicles for driving down your neighborhood streets?

UPS vehicle dont cross my property while delivering. they go on public roads. see this : http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/open-season-drones-town-sp...

I can't help but think of the Domino's video[1] from about 6 months ago. This would be pretty cool, but I don't understand why everyone is so amazed by this...

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDXuGQRpvs4

I see many potential problems to this- such as, what if the weather is very bad (wind, rain, ect). Also, what if a thief catches the drone?

It's definitely an interesting concept. I love it. I doubt Amazon has it all figured out but I also doubt they are foolish. Kudos to Amazon for being bold.

I knew Amazon was serious about Cloud Computing, but I didn't realize they took it so literally...

Imagine the Amazon mothership flying above your city with hundreds of drones doing the deliveries.

Drone piracy. Think about it.

On one hand, totally awesome. On the other, how does Amazon defend against it?

Let the drone wars begin!

I hope eventually drones will just deliver raw materials and resources for product materialization (next generation manufacturing) at home or on-site, using both commercial and open source product materialization specifications distributed electronically.

The only concern i have is the propellers, can they be encased to avoid accidental injury? I remember having this conversations when "taco copter" made HN front page, i am assuming by now there is a way to make the propellers collision safe.

Late to the discussion, but I'm surprised no one is discussing the non-technical implications of drones. Even if safety/security/etc can be guaranteed 100%, personally I wouldn't want my view of the sky to be littered by drones.

While technologically fascinating, is it just me or are we creating a really sad sad world, where we eliminate all human interaction and pollute or skies with these ugly annoying things. I wholeheartedly hopes this fails as hard as possible.

>where we eliminate all human interaction

As you post this to a message board on the Internet where hundreds (thousands?) of people will read it. Only face-to-face human interaction is decreasing, while total human interaction is increasing.

I think this is great news. It's innovation and will cause a even bigger revolution in the retail business. Obviously, there's a lot to be considered before actually putting it out there, but I believe this will be very successful.

I for one am awaiting the time that we can finally look up and see nothing but thousands of drones hovering ahead, eclipsing the sky.

one question.

1. whats to stop some hooligan from throwing a rock at one or standing on his roof and catching one and stealing the package.

Im working with UAV's in Afghanistan right now and just saw the video for this. Im just wondering where i need to apply to get into this job as soon as i can. Anyone know where i should try to contact or look for the job listings?

Either they are going to be autonomous or this will be very expensive delivery system. One man attending one package delivery for 20-30 minutes will not do.

If they have human involvement, it's just checking the drop point. In any case, it will be extremely low paid job.

Adagio Tea has a similar idea with their Teacopter: http://www.adagio.com/teacopter/

I have a little more confidence in Amazon being able to pull this off, though.

Not only do I hope this succeeds, but -- assuming this would be available for third parties -- it would actually advance my wife's business plan immensely. To use an overstated phrase, it would be a real game-changer.

Loud jumbo mosquitoes constantly buzzing around my neighborhood, ruining my view and endangering my kids? I want 30 minute delivery, but not that badly. I can plan ahead and exercise patience, or use a bike messenger.

As much as I love UAV technology, we live in a nanny state where even the slightest risk of injury is outlawed to prevent citizen stupidity.

The second someone gets within three feet of a UAV rotor as it tries to land, this gets banned.

This video explains how drone delivery will change the world, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ch5tts4B4FE

Funny how an article on dinners killing kids across the world does not make headlines, but drones delivering cheap Chinese made toys makes it too the headlines of every major publication..

If it were not December, I would assume this was an april fools joke.

Regarding the whole dog thing. I guess if you're ordering something by drone, it will arrive within 30 minutes. So why not just keep the dog inside or in the kennel for 30 minutes?

haha awesome, sweet video and a great project. Its kind of like the refugee camp pill delivery quad we prototyped at MHacks. 2 big questions: 1) how do they handle motor failure, drones falling out of the sky? 2)How do they auto land? Its too soon for some sort of real time obstacle avoidance / image processing / auto landing without heavy lidar, and a lot of compute. What about range? These drones only fly for max 20 minutes at 20mph so you'd have to live within 3 ish miles.

Are there any startups working on anti-piracy technology for drones? Imagine criminals targeting high value deliveries and knocking these guys out of the air with their own drones.

This vision for last mile of deliveries looks right. Looking forward to buildings having "chute systems" that organize and automate deliveries to individual recipients.

I'm curious why all these delivery vehicles use helicopter designs instead of blimps. Wouldn't the better safety and added flight time compensate for increased drag?

So this explains why Amazon built a center not even 10mins away from my house(Schertz,TX). If they are offering it here I'm going to order something random just cause.

there was a conspicuous display of human labor at the beginning

I can't tell, would the delivery drones be Autonomous or human piloted? This definitely sounds too sci-fi to be true. Hard to imagine the cost associated here too..

The drones would be autonomous. According to the 60 Minutes piece, it sounds like it is five years out. With a 10 mile radius, this could be an interesting proposition.

According to the FAQ below the video, Amazon thinks it could be up and operational "sometime in 2015": http://amzn.to/1jZz62w

Actually I think he said the "earliest" we could expect them was 2015 because that was as soon as the FAA could approve them, thats jut a year or two away.

10 mile radius? Where are you getting that figure? Also, I thought the distribution centers were usually a bit farther out than most metro areas, making that less practical?

Bezos mentioned this in his 60 Minutes interview.

If a human is spending the time to pilot the package back and forth would this really provide much of a benefit?

… but is he? If you could define a "drone altitude zone" where only drones are allowed to operate, you could easily automate it all out.

Lets assume this technology took off! With thousands of drones flying in the sky , the urban sky will look so ugly. Do we really need to use drone for parcel delivery ?

This seems like a cool technological problem to solve that is completely unnecessary. Is waiting a 1-2 days to receive something in the mail that big of a deal?

I can't wait for the parody videos to show up on this.

NFW does this not run into all sorts of regulatory hurdles.

This will be a huge issue, even if Amazon gets this through the FAA, there are going to be all kinds of local interests expressing their concerns. What happens when one of these gets tied up in an overhead power lines? Did folks living near the fulfillment centers (assuming the warehouse were there first) sign up to live near a heliport, with dozens+ of aerial noise sources buzzing off every day? What about trees, etc?

This looks cool, and Amazon has some smart folks so this will likely work itself out over time, but there is going to be a lot to overcome.

My first thought when reading this was Amazon selling this as a service to local businesses as well. Allow them to use this to sell & deliver products.

All I can say is HAHAHAHAHA! Too much work for a single package. If ever this will push through, I wonder how much a delivery would cost.

Sounds good to me, as far as they put some emergency delivery shortcuts in the header: - ironed shirt - phone charger - toilet paper

Some guys from Russia (CopterExpress) already tested that idea in Moscow during this summer. They had negative experience as i know

Make these things fly 5 feet off the ground only over roads and they wont pose any more danger then what already exist on roads.

I thought this would come but in the form of how military drones are flown today - with a pilot sitting back at Amazon HQ.

This is amazing.

I was reminded of the Back to the Future movies watching the video for this.

This looks to be the first steps towards that dream.

Welcome to the future. This is incredible, although it looks like a page Google would put up for April Fools.

I wonder how much they will charge for this - what's the efficiency like compared to delivery vans?

Will we see private ownership of drones that are used to do pick-ups from supermarkets, warehouses, etc?

If this comes true, I shall order a book and get a bot for free [If you know what I'm saying :D]

If it can handle picking up a return package that would mean never having to go the UPS store again.

I will shoot this one , if i see the drones. You can get a camera, a gps and a hover for free!

I live in a high rise with a balcony can I just leave the door open and have it come inside.

This is so awesome to see the robots coming and not having them being programmed kill people.

Thanks Jeff.

Ok, so what's the cost of delivering a one pound payload one mile by drone?

They better start selling tacos as well, or I'm going to be disappointed.

April fools was months ago.

but Cyber Monday is today. Awesome marketing stunt to get free TV ads and media coverage the day before.

"cyber monday" is the april fools of marketing, there aren't actually any good sales today, it is meant for people who feel left out from the consumerism

But does Amazon even need marketing like this? I mean everyone price checks Amazon, even especially while looking in a physical store.

I don't think there is a point where you don't try to get as much as marketing as possible and Jeff Bezos is a very ambitious person who likes to be seen as "crazy but very successful innovator". As far as I can see, Amazon has only two major man-in-the-middle parties left: the parcel services and banks.

My guess is that Amazon tries to buy or build their own parcel service company in areas where parcel services don't compete enough (= not cheap and fast enough for Amazon).

This PrimeAir marketing stunt could therefor be a message to their current parcel services to get faster and cheaper OR amazon will enter the market and do it themselves.

This looks like a rather cheap way to "buy" drone components.

I want my items delivered by RC pulsejet. Go big, or go home.

the days when the comments added value to the topic are long gone...

* i know I'm being part of that but I usually never comment, I learn from you people! (or use to)

Shoot it out of the sky or spoof GPS, get free stuff!

Markerting stunt

Timed on the eve of Cyber Monday. Yathink?

Pretty damned obvious.

Sportsmen will have a blast with this.

Three letters:


Unless you are proposing a nuclear bomb, most EMP devices wouldn't make any difference when they are flying high in the sky at 20mph

incredible product and looking forward to start such facility in India

i guess they will charge heavy for this delivery.

haha will the package they put it in be mine or should i return it if so how?

How do you return an amazon package left at your doorstep that isn't yours? How often does this happen?

I'm shorting UPS, FDX!

totally stunning.

If it works as it does, this would be a great way to hoard those small boxes that come along with the package, and later resell them :D

or just resell the drone

I can imagine these will become a nuisance.

i have my own hobby UAV's and the more i see about prime air the more i think its a joke.

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