Amazon Prime Air’s First Customer Delivery
Amazon revealed its intentions to deliver packages autonomously. The e-commerce giant is working on its seventh-generation prototype. The octocopter can carry lightweight cargo (up to five pounds) within a 10-mile radius of an Amazon fulfillment center.
Amazon has been developing drone technology in Cambridge UK since 2014. The firm has focused its drone research and development work in the UK due to flexibility with regulations which are less defined and stricter in the USA.
In July 2016, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the UK granted Amazon special permission to develop and test drone delivery technology in three main areas – 1) flights when the drone can not be seen by a pilot, 2) crash avoidance into buildings, and 3) allowing a single pilot to manage multiple drones at once.
On December 7, 2016 – Amazon Prime Air made history with a 13-minute flight to deliver a customer order. Amazon filmed the milestone, showing a customer placing an order on a tablet, processing the order in the newly designed Prime Air fulfillment center. And, once packaged and loaded into the drone; delivering the order to the customer in real-time. The Prime-Air drone is guided by GPS from the fulfillment center to the customer’s house.
At the moment, Amazon is trialing drone deliveries with two customers but plans to offer it to more customers near the Cambridge Prime Air fulfillment center.
Amazon will use data gathered from beta testing of the Prime Air service to refine the offering. Beta Prime Air customers will be able to order and receive Amazon products seven days a week during daylight hours and good weather conditions.
Within the USA, the FAA hasn’t sanctioned the use of drones for commercial purposes yet. Prior to approval, Amazon Prime Air must be able to demonstrate to the FAA that drones can be used safely for this purpose. Amazon is confident drone delivery will arrive soon. It will work, it will happen, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Amazon recently received regulatory approval in the United States to test high-speed commercial drones. The use of drones in the supply chain can be expected to drive down delivery costs.
- Amazon will be able to drone deliver a package at a cost of $0.10 in 30 minutes or less. This estimate considers factors such as operating expenses associated with building and maintaining a fleet of drones and the percentage of orders that might be feasibly delivered by drones.
- The majority of purchases made on Amazon are low in weight and would be eligible for drone delivery. The current drone model that Amazon is testing is capable of flying at a speed of 50 miles per hour while carrying a 5-pound (2.3-kilogram) payload; approximately 86% of orders shipped by Amazon weigh less than this amount, according to company documents.
- Drone deliveries would improve the efficiency of a same-day delivery service that already has tremendous reach. Even without drones, Amazon is already capable of offering same-day delivery through conventional means to 15% of the US population, and is expected to increase this reach to 50% of the population within a few years.
Drone deliveries will translate to instant cost savings, part of which will be passed on to consumers. It costs far less to operate a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles than it does a fleet of ground vehicles. It costs 10 cents to deliver a 4.4-pound (2 kilo) package over six miles (9.7 kilometers) using a drone. That’s far cheaper than the $2 to $8 per package that it costs Amazon today using ground transportation for deliveries over this “last mile.”
Offering 30-minute delivery at a low cost to consumers could boost Amazon’s e-commerce and retail market share. “Shipping costs” are the top reason why consumers abandon a shopping cart online, so the retailer achieving the most significant reductions in shipping fees will likely win consumer loyalty and market share. Competing retailers and shippers other than Amazon are also working on delivery drones, but Amazon seems to be the furthest along in its testing.
Shipping company DHL begins piloting drone deliveries in a real-world setting. The “Parcelcopter,” will deliver medicine and other goods to Juist, a German island in the North Sea. The car-free island has a population of approx 1,700 people, and drone flights will take place when other aircraft and ferries aren’t operating.
DHL previously tested a drone in a controlled environment. To prepare for the 12-kilometer flight over the North Sea, DHL modified its prototype for duration, range, and speed. The Parcelcopter can travel up to 65 kilometers an hour.
DHL Parcelcopter 3.0 is one of the safest and most reliable flight systems in its class that meets the requirements needed to fulfill such a mission. This additional service creates added value for the residents of the island of Juist.
Google Project Wing
Google confirmed Thursday it has been running its own autonomous delivery tests in Australia as part of a secret program called Project Wing. Google completed more than 30 successful flights in Warwick, a small town about 100 miles outside Brisbane. The prototype from the search giant’s experimental arm, Google X, can ascend vertically and has four rotors: two by the body’s underside and two on the outside toward the edge of the wings. The vehicle can drop packages tethered to a fishing line a couple hundred feet from the air. When the package hits the ground, a sensor-laden component called the egg detaches the package from the wire, which retracts back into the body. The company landed on this design because the rotors can injure the person receiving the package if the drone is too close to the ground.