Amazon Prime Air – What You Need to Know
Amazon has always tried to be on the cutting edge of technology, and it’s come a long way from its humble beginnings as a simple Internet book retailer. Today, Amazon controls more than 55% of all online sales in the United States – giving the company the money to do just about anything it wants. And, from the Kindle to the Amazon Echo Dot, they’ve done just about that.
Amazon now caters to billions of buyers worldwide, and over 30 million Amazon Prime buyers, who pay a premium rate of $99+ per month to access TV shows (Amazon Prime Streaming), free books, and to get free 2-day shipping on most products. Amazon revolutionized how buyers expect to buy online, by both speeding up the process and improving quality and reliability of deliveries.
Most people also know that Amazon is working on a drone delivery system called the Amazon Prime Air. The delivery system has been in testing since 2016 and is now in action, delivering some products to buyers.
What is Amazon Prime Air?
Amazon Prime Air is a service Amazon is testing to deliver products via drone, immediately or within 30 minutes of order. The system, which has so far only been tested in a few cities, namely Cambridge, UK, enables drones in relevant areas to pick up products from a warehouse and fly them directly to the address. The drones are capable of supporting packages of up to 5 lbs., meaning that most Amazon products could be delivered in this way, providing the buyer is close to an Amazon warehouse or hub.
Currently, the system works by having an Amazon warehouse employee pick and pack the order, load it onto the drone, and then the drone performs the delivery (without a human pilot).
Amazon is now intermittently testing the system, so if you live within a 30 minute (flight) radius of an Amazon warehouse, you might receive your delivery by drone.
What Does Amazon Want with It?
Amazon’s eventual goal is to create an automated delivery system, where drones can self-load through an automated hub and then deliver quickly. This system, which Amazon already patented, changes warehouses to a bee-hive like structure where robotics and automation handle all or most of the labor.
In turn, people living near hubs (in cities) would receive their goods more quickly, with an average delivery time of 30 minutes or less. That could change not only how and why people order online, but also what they order online. For example, if you can order products to be delivered in 30 minutes, you could more easily order perishables and fragile products, which have less risk with a faster delivery period.
And, while the cost of implementing drones is likely quite high at first, especially with a large enough scale to support single deliveries from hubs, it reduces costs over time. Unmanned drones have the ability to use electric rather than gas and, do not require a human driver, and deliver more quickly. So, Amazon would save money over time, while improving customer satisfaction, increasing the range of products available, and delivering more quickly.
Amazon Prime Air does have a lot of obstacles. For example, most areas do not allow drones to fly without a human pilot within sight of the drone in urban areas. And, flying drones are prone to crashing, light enough that weather can be an obstacle, and easy to steal.
As a result, drone delivery is nowhere near a perfected science, but it is happening. Chances are, you can expect to see it on a large scale within the next 10 years. That may seem like a long time, but some urban areas are already getting deliveries by drone and that just has to spread.
What do you think? Would you like your Amazon order delivered by drone? And how do you think 30 minute deliveries would change how you order products?