Amazon’s “Delivery by Drone” … What do you think?

Dec 02, 2013 63 Comments by

Everyone’s talking about Amazon’s proposed Prime Air “delivery by drone,”  which would get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles. Amazon notes, ”Putting Prime Air into commercial use will take some number of years as we advance technology and wait for the necessary FAA rules and regulations.” Check out their footage from a recent test flight and let us know what you think. Is delivery by drone a way to get packages fast or a recipe for disaster?

Debra Cleghorn, Featured News

About the author

Executive editor About me: I’m a publishing professional who has a passion for aviation and RC, and I love creating issues, books and a website that help RC pilots to enjoy this sport even more. I admire scale aircraft and enjoy the convenience of flying smaller electrics.

63 Responses to “Amazon’s “Delivery by Drone” … What do you think?”

  1. Doug F says:

    I see all this drone stuff as the eventual end to the RC hobby. At the very least it will bring about a very regulated and restricted hobby. For now the FAA has been kept at bay but in the future that will change.

    • Angleo says:

      That’s what the control line guys were saying in the 1950′s when RC was just starting.

      • Milt says:

        Yep, and how many guys do you know still flying control line? I got the bug to dig out my 1967 built Flite Streak and have put it back into the air with my 1956 Fox 35. It still flies. Trying to find UC stuff, much less people to go fly with has been like pulling teeth. I have been to 4 large club sites and have found no place to fly UC, but I have located a remote park 1/2 mile from my club field ……….

  2. Gerry Yarrish says:

    Amazing!

  3. doug f says:

    impossible

  4. Tom McDonald says:

    First time it rips into someone’s skin (even before) – it’s unsafe and a bad idea.

  5. crossfire2016 says:

    It’s a great idea. I don’t have a problem with drones like little whiners do. It’s the cost to ship it to me in less than 30 min is the issue. I won’t pay $150+ just for that. I can wait.

  6. umpire20 says:

    Technology …….

    There was a time when people said flying was impossible.

  7. Rich Uravitch says:

    It seems a little silly and is probably more a P.R. tactic by Amazon,given all the “drone” interest as of late. But, maybe it does fit in with the logical progression of the “I want it now” mentality. First the government mandated air bags for our vehicles; this new scheme should bring about mandated helmets for all pedestrians. After all, we don’t want taxpayers to get injured, do we??

  8. Tom B says:

    First,Google invades our privacy with Google Glass, and now Amazon wants to invade our personal airspace.

  9. J Harr says:

    Get Real People! Even if you could get a Octocopter to fly for 30 min. the Amazon shipping point would have to be less than 15 min away from the final destination. That would mean that Amazon would need hundreds more shipping locations that stocked everything in Amazons vast inventory. Wonder what the shipping cost would be on a $10.00 book? $100.00 may cover it…no way.
    May take until 2015 to get permitted try 2025 or later. Again Get Real People.

  10. David D says:

    When you’re Jeff Bezos and you have billions in your bank account, you get to think, and do, way outside the box. This is a neat use of this technology, but I don’t think it’ll ever get off the ground, literally. I’d rather see Bezos fund a transporter project that the likes of Star Trek fame, then Amazon could sell us a one-way transporter and beam our products to our home.

  11. linektj says:

    maybe within a company to ship parts around, but out to the community is absurd. Logistically impractical. Where’s the new technology for the power system…would love to get ahold of something that would have that much flight time.

  12. Bill Bartley says:

    I am sure the shipping will be prohibitive! I am sure the government will want to regulate it too. I quit buying most things from Amazon because of having to pay multiple shipping on ordering 2 or more of the same item that is being packaged and shipped in the same envelope and box. I can only imagine what the charge will be for this.

  13. Bill says:

    Sort of reminds me of how, in the ’30s, everyone thought we’d soon be flying helicopters to work every day …

  14. marty says:

    Can you imagine all these drones getting g sucked into a tornado? You would have Dorothy II.
    Just like the movie Twister.

  15. Norman Staples says:

    JUST FOR PUBLICITY TOO MANY DRONES NOT ENOUGH AIR SPACE

  16. Ron says:

    I think this is impractical for many reasons. Can you envision the lawsuits the Amazon people will get from having drones bumping into cars, houses, or anything else and causing damage? What about interfering with air traffic? Whats to stop someone from capturing the drones for their own use? This is a silly idea.

  17. David Best says:

    You need to experience some of the wicked wind storms that my area has experienced in the past to know this will NEVER work in some areas. To see fences designed to slow down the winds be totally destroyed and locals so angry at the winds blowing dirt into their property from their neighbors that they fight over it (not realizing that it’s Mother Nature…not their neighbors), this concept will fail if Amazon thinks this program will be nationwide. These helis in the RC hobby world have proven that they don’t like high winds. Nice try Amazon, but focus on other concepts. You’re wasting your time and money on this one.

  18. Steve C says:

    Bad idea and don’t see it working out at all. For one its dangerous. Every little kid is going to want to see it up close and will most likely try to catch it and in other areas it will probably be shot down with some bird shot. They would have to put bases in almost every neighborhood and a warehouse in every city. for this to work. the range is not there. But if they do succeed in this quest i will most definitely be applying for a job there :-)

  19. Steve K says:

    Great PR but a really bad idea. It reminds me of the flying car idea. Technologically feasible but safety and economic problems keep it in the “Wouldn’t it be cool if….” category.

  20. Bryan Swank says:

    Looks like a marketing stunt by Amazon. I don’t, however, think this kind of silliness is helpful at this stage of the development of this important and maturing technology. There seem to be enough legitimate business ideas to help guide the EAA, AMA, NSA, and FAA discussions without adding impractical ideas to the mix. I am sure that Amazon’s management can see the fundamental flaws in the use of this technology for package delivery such as flight duration, safety, returning the plastic boxes (millions of them), as well as package size and weight restrictions. Even though it has caused national news attention it seems a shame that this is being driven by an impractical business idea.

  21. Dean f says:

    Well, its a good idea if we lived in an honest society. I heard it described as skeet shooting with prizes. I just think they are eventually going to loose an awful lot of drones and packages.

  22. Jeremy in IN says:

    Sounds unsafe with the need to deliver at the front door of houses – flying low and near people without human oversight. What about these and many other drones darkening the skies, and potentially creating collision scenarios for our RC toys? Plus, the payload will be limited and/or the battery required may limit its usefulness. Sounds a bit more like publicity seeking during the holiday shopping period.

  23. Paul Anderson says:

    Maybe work in the country but no way in urban areas if the FAA ever allows
    it.

  24. Roger P says:

    Won’t happen. Not enough power for an effective commercial application. They would be better off paying a guy on a moped the same amount to bring your package. Similar travel times and a lower failure rate

  25. Dave Halperin says:

    Will not work under today’s constraints. The drone, as described, has starting and ending coordinates. What happens in between? Suppose it hits a person, building, tree, etc. or flies too high in controlled air space? Would be a great temptation for some people to try and blow it out of the air. Finally, what if the sky is full of these drones and they start to impact each other? The only way it may work is if each one would be controlled by FPV.

  26. Mark Bliese says:

    Looks like target practice time. That hawks will like playing with those.

  27. Tim says:

    Way cool! Going to be a limited population it could serve, but how cool for them!!! I don’t ink delivery charges will be that astronomical. A battery charge isn’t super expensive, a mass production of the copters would make them a bit cheaper, gosh $35 per delivery and each chopper doing ~ 10 deliveries a day…. It wouldn’t take long to pay for them and make money on them. I just wonder if weirdos will try to shot them down or something.

    The real deal here isn’t amazon, it’d be PIZZA delivery!!!!

  28. Tim says:

    Oops one more thing on safety. I’ve seen some of these drones with sensors that do an incredible job of avoiding objects. It’d be easy to program them to stay at a specified height, say 200 feet in a regular neighborhood and then come down on the home, have their own designated level of airspace,…. This really could happen….. COOL thing that could happen is costs could go down on some of these rc parts for us with larger productions of parts for these drones to come!

  29. Tom V. says:

    It “aint” never gonna happen.

    • Drew says:

      You just said it would eventually happen thanks to the double negative. Get too negative and you end up positive I guess. Ps loved the detailed explination of your totally clear view point.

  30. Luke S. says:

    Impractical and unrealistic. This is nothing but a cheap publicity stunt on Amazons part. Think of all the coverage the media has given this and how many times the word AMAZON was spoken. Tons of free advertising especially around the holidays.

  31. Marvin Mattingly says:

    Look ma; it’s raining packages!!!!!!!! Sounds like a great idea until someone gets beaned with a 5# package! It reminds me of the classic Thanksgiving turkey episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. “As God is my witness I thought turkeys could fly!”

  32. Mike Howell says:

    I think that this drone delivery system is going to be a disaster waiting to happen. Oh,it’s nice to be able to get your product faster,but all it needs to do is fall into the wrong hands by whatever means and a nice idea………goes horribly wrong.
    Mike Howell
    Williamson,NY

  33. Andy Horka says:

    Yay! Free drones! ;-)

  34. Your Mom says:

    Never happen. If it did they would be shot down.
    This is a un-realistic publicity stunt that succeeded.

  35. Russel Landis says:

    I think it is outstanding ! I am an RC pilot and know this totally possible with small payloads !

    RJL

  36. Mike says:

    I think Homeland Security will have a cow and I suspect we will see some heavy regulation come out of those concerns.

  37. Mike says:

    I can also see the local Bubbas using them for skeet shooting practice! Remember that TV show a year or two back when a lawyer played by Kathy Bates? She shoots down a UFO and it turns out its a police drone peeking in the neighbor’s window after a social media posting.

  38. Richard Clang says:

    The FAA will never allow it to happen and never is a big word!

  39. Milt says:

    I love technology, and I love this idea – that said, I see too many obstacles to putting these drones out in public airspace. Beam me up Scotty!

  40. Steve B. says:

    As has been pointed out, it will take criminals about five minutes to figure out how to bring the drones down and steal the deliveries. Not feasable unless they have a plan for armed escorts. Now there’s a big brother idea!

  41. Bob says:

    Obviously, who cares what we think. It’s all about the money.

  42. Bill Liston says:

    This was clearly a publicity stunt by Jeff Bezos, CEO, that worked very well for him. He got world-wide publicity just a few days before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If you watch the video, you’ll see it was shot in different segments and patched together. Hat’s off to him for his timing and picking a subject the media would jump all over “robots are coming!”. He loves to sucker the press like this.

    Imagine the liability when a dog or kid grabs something like this as it lands or takes off, not to mention the logistics or technology required. As someone else said, this is just like the Jetson’s flying car — not gonna happen.

    Unfortunately, it will cause another wave of “government needs to regulate this” panic that will have a negative impact on our hobby.

  43. Roger Sturtevant (@Redbird85C) says:

    I agree that it’s 99% Amazon PR boost. Much cheaper than an actual TV commercial although that’s kind of what the 60 Minutes story was anyway. You can do amazing things with electronics in multi-rotor, but even FPV on UHF the reliability is pretty low from a commercial and safety perspective. I imagine Amazon would negotiate something with the FCC for a unique frequency. Or maybe they’d do something with satellites. Lots of technology to evolve while the FAA ponders the concept. But in the final version there may be some technology the FAA didn’t anticipate only to prolong approvals. What about other federal, state and local regulations? I think Amazon will continue with the development just to say they did it and it would still be cool marketing. But the real not starter will be legislative/regulatory snags established for privacy and safety concerns.

  44. cmmx says:

    Gimmicky and impractical. They’ll need thousands. They’ll be charging batteries continuously. Products may be lost (destroyed) due to technical failures. They could potentially crash into people and property, into busy streets and highways. They could be grabbed and stolen when they land (along with the product they’re delivering).

  45. Jeff says:

    Thieves will love it! locals can bring them down anywhere enroute with little chance of being caught.Just like skeet shooting. Cyber criminals can hack their guidance systems and redirect them. Amazon is successful because of its low costs and especially its PRIME free shipping. The cost of liabilities and infrastructure involved would be their demise.

  46. Drew says:

    Its a long way off, but all of the stated problems besides illegal firearms discharge are solvable. Its likely not intended for all addresses. Likely just for the majority of people that live in urban areas. Make the option only appear during appropriate weather. Have sensors (way better than FPV for cluttered airspace) and route mapping that avoids restricted or occupied airspace like airports, buildings and hunting areas. Have a delivery procedure where the recipient is alerted 5 min before delivery so that they can be present and confirm by smart phone etc that the landing zone is clear as per the checkbox they agreed to when ordering. Then a landing zone warning area could be projected onto the ground alerting and clarifying the exact location. Then with a click of the phone (press 1 to land, press 2 to abort) the drone could land and release along with a stay back announcement. If the recipient is delayed this would allow limited loitering for security, and charge $X per attempt upfront. If that was too risky a sky crane could lower packages from out of reach on multiple lines for stability. It’s probably not going to be for everyone but if a business absolutely needs a high value part now, then it would save time and hassle.
    As for being shot down or captured there are still laws. GPS, shot tracking microphone tech and cameras could allow instant reporting of flagrant gun safety violations. They are not designed for long range so if some one is firing at them they are shooting in urban areas. I like gun rights, but with them come obligations. Any one who throws lead around like that should have the book thrown at them.
    Mind you they could become long range if a bigger version allowed smaller sights to receive shipments with wing based drones from further away, then load them on the hex copters. They could also have shipping and receiving centers or deals where office max or other stores set up a landing pad for 4 times a day delivery near where you live. Could then use he’s, or wing drones – even with VTOL capacity. Solves the landing safety issues.
    Right now a scooter driver is better but I’ve needed equipment sooner than ASAP and so there is a market. They already have some shipping options that are only for certain items and certain locations. Plenty of people also have to be the first on their block to get the latest X item, plus some People love novelty.

  47. will says:

    not sensible at all.

  48. Lou Tisch says:

    I very much do not like the concept. Recipe for disaster. Lou

  49. Charles E McMais says:

    An air traffic control nightmare! The infrastructure to regulate this idea would make Obamacare look simple.

  50. ghznm says:

    Stupid idea…

  51. Bruce Rex says:

    I think this is a recipe for disaster and would be impractical. At 50 mph (for example) the range for timely deliveries would be small as well as the normal obstructions for landing and takeoff close to homes.

  52. Dana Giles says:

    Looks like no one can think out of the box. Keep sitting on the couch eating chips and playing video games and let the rest of us make it work.

  53. Eduardo Roesch says:

    Very ingenious free advertise for Amazon
    thats the theme of conversation in social reunions Amazon Bla Bla …………..

    Imagine if you order a full concert piano to be delivered.

    er

  54. DAVID MAYLE says:

    NO WAY. YOU WILL NEED A SKILLED PIOLT FOR EACH DELIVERY.A FIELD DAY FOR LAWYERS. LIPO BATTERY FIRES WILL BE COMMOM. PERSONAL INJURIES WILL BE COMMON. AT TV CAMMERA WILL BE MANATORY.

  55. David says:

    I think the drones are a great idea. Finally boys with catapults and air rifles will have legitimate moving targets to practice on

  56. Bob Reed says:

    I think will many obstacles to over come, but i think it’s where we are going in society. Just think what public opinon when the first car, or even the first airplane.There were many nay sayers.

  57. Luke Z says:

    Obviously I see this as a limited service you would have to sign up and qualify for and it would need an adequate space to land. I think they said they are shooting for customers within a 10 mile radius. I see some on here saying that they would have to build distribution centers every 10 miles to provide this service to all, that is not what they are saying. Not everyone will qualify for this limited service, it could come in real handy if it eventually works out. Rich Uravitch thinks it caters to the want it now people, either you drive 10 miles to the store and have your item in 30min or you get on the internet and order it and get it in 30min, what is the difference? I’ll tell you, less cars on the road just to name one. And another part of the “want it now” (and need it now) generation would be people that need emergency medical supplies. Hospitals already have landing pads, this service could be a life saver. Who knows what the future will bring?

  58. Larry says:

    It is good to see the RC hobby venturing to become a viable part of the community and even commerce but I can see potential issues here………what keeps anyone from simply following these multi-copters around and stealing the goods as they are “dropped off” at someone else’s doorstep? And what stops Johnny shotgun from blowing it out of the sky because it flew over his property? Will there be any guarantee that the delivery copters won’t fly over streets and highways or large groups of people? Batteries fail, as do flight components. What about the Channel XYZ helicopter flying low over a house fire to cover the story or the police copter tracking an escaped prisoner who is roaming through a neighborhood? There seems to be too many inherent risks involved in the design here and not sure if present-day technology is capable of solving these issues right now.

  59. gordo says:

    I think it really smart idea

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