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.
Cake drone delivery: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/1020621...
Pizza drone delivery: http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/dominos-tests-delivery-pizza-r...
Parcel delivery drones: http://news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-57601531-76/drones-in-chin...
Beer delivery drones: http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/branding/1561256/...
Taco delivery drones: http://tacocopter.com/
Sushi delivery drones: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=y9RKX...
General delivery drones: http://matternet.us/our-vision/ http://www.economist.com/news/technology-quarterly/21567193-...
I guess what I'm saying is this has the feeling of a PR stunt.
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...
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.
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...
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.)
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.
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.
The list goes on...
And there isn't a drone on my doorstep yet.
with barely any people in the entire process to slow things down and make it expensive.
You must be new to Hacker News…
HN is usually filled with poor attempts at being clever; rarely is it ever so completely contradictory and illogical.
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".
I'm certain drone delivery has been discussed by many countless people, most of whom the acronym HN means nothing to.
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.
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.
I'm among those who don't see any need for Dropbox, but readily admit that obviously millions of others do.
They do not do what dropbox does.
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.
> 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.
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.
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.
I really enjoy reading Hacker News from time to time. It really reminds me how far removed we are from the actual customers.
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
I am worried about the 16-year old holding a mobile phone or an old lady throwing out the garbage.
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?
Driving vehicles on roads is incredibly dangerous. I don't think it's possible for drones to do a worse job.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Keep in mind that not every reader leaves a comment.
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.
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.
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
> 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.
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
It's easier to judge others than to put yourself out on a limb...
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
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.
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Will Amazon Prime Air work? I don't know, but I hope so.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It sounds like you're confusing "suburban residential" with "backwater rural." Census data 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.
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.
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 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".
Similarly, critical thinking and blind pessimism aren't the same thing, though many people mistake them to be.
Generating ideas another matter.
Innovation often requires ideas that sound 'crazy' (because they don't fit with established ideas).
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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...
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.
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!
> 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
If my local mom-n-pop store has an app and a drone, I would shop there.
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.
Or maybe someday we'll look back at these comments like we do at http://slashdot.org/story/01/10/23/1816257/
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.
No sig for you. YOU GET NO SIG!"
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?
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.
Or really any 'disruptive' product.
Battery recharge time - out for 15 mins flight? Recharge for 2 hours.
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.
Maybe he has an upper hand over the current state-of-the-art.
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.
Now, those resources can be leveraged to generate even more value for consumers.
Don't dismiss the value of insider information re: government policy.
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.
Except for, you know, that bit (the bit you cut out)
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.
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.
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.
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.
But the population also exploded since then.
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. 
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.
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.
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.
Its kind of like how large enterprises use an Open Office support quote to bring down the cost of their Microsoft office licensing.
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?
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.
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 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.
HA! Good luck on that.
You keep your taxes to yourself. I have a package that needs delivering in under 30 minutes by drone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You'll just get your Amazon Prime Beacon™ which you just put on the floor and sends out little pulses to guide the drone.
But I doubt it's technically feasible.