Amazon.com CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos says testing drones for delivery.


Amazon.com Inc is testing delivery packages using drones, CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos said Sunday on the CBS television program “60 Minutes.”

Jeffrey Bezos said the drones, unmanned vehicles that fly through the air, could deliver packages that weigh up to 2.3 kg. That represents roughly 86 per cent of packages that Amazon delivers, he said.

Drone delivery

The drones, which would pick up items from Amazon’s distribution centers and fly them to customer’s homes, probably won’t be put into use for four or five years, Jeffrey Bezos added.

A blog on Washington Post, which is owned by Bezos, said he showed CBS’s Charlie Rose a working prototype of an eight-rotor helicopter drone called an “octocopter.” Emblazoned with “Amazon Prime Air,” the flying robot has a claw at the bottom that allows it to scoop up packages at Amazon fulfillment centers and carry them to customers’ front lawns, the blog said.

The biggest hurdle is the fact that the US, or any other country for that matter, does not have regulations for so much crone occupying the air space. The company will also have to make drones that can carry the said load and stay in the air long enough to deliver the package and come back to base.

“By 2015, the FAA has to come up with a set of rules that integrates just the kind of thing that Amazon is talking about” into the national airspace, Calo said.

Amazon will have to convince federal regulators that the technology is safe and that it wouldn’t lead to excessive congestion. “If what Amazon proposes doesn’t feel safe, the FAA could get worried about the prospect of these things falling out of the sky,” Calo said. In his “60 Minutes” interview, Bezos said that the prototype octocopter has redundant motors so it can stay in the air even if one fails.

Calo said the FAA may be skittish about allowing fully automated drones in the sky. At least initially, the agency might require that a human guide the drones remotely during deliveries. That might initially drive up the cost of the service, limiting its use to customers willing to pay a premium.

Technological issues also could limit the technology’s value in the next few years. According to Calo, the current generation of autonomous flying machines can carry only a few pounds and stay in the air for about 15 minutes. That means that it probably wouldn’t be possible to serve an entire metropolitan area from a single fulfillment center.

But Amazon may be able to overcome both obstacles in the long run. That means that someday, unmanned flights that could allow 30-minute deliveries to become as common and affordable as two-day delivery are today.

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