The future of deliveries is set on reducing the delivery time as much as possible. If a restaurant can deliver food in less than half an hour, what’s stopping one of the biggest e-commerce companies in the world from doing something similar? That’s the thinking behind Amazon Prime Air.
While Amazon Prime members can get things delivered on the same day, why do we still have to wait for hours instead of minutes? It’s not that simple. It’s easier to have a meal delivered from a set menu in a limited amount of time, but shipping from a seemingly infinite number of products in a similar window is nearly impossible.
The logistical challenges of road traffic, a White Friday, or other delays can quickly wreak havoc on your larger delivery items’ timelines. These are some of the basic issues that Amazon is looking to overcome when it comes to the next stage of package delivery, and it’s tackling things from a unique perspective – drones.
Drones aren’t new to Amazon- the company announced its first Prime Air trials with drone delivery back in June 2022. They’ve continued to develop the technology, announcing their latest drone, the MK30 and expanding into countries like Italy and the UK in 2024.
If the thought of a sky full of buzzing drones dropping packages fills you with dread, you have little to worry about. Apart from rigorous testing and a fully autonomous traffic management system in the works, Amazon’s drone deliveries have several safety features in place to ensure the drones are able to deliver packages safely at all times. But more importantly, drone delivery is something to get excited about for several reasons.
The first – and obvious reason – is speed. Being able to have certain products dropped off in your backyard is a real advantage, especially if it’s something that you need urgently. Amazon is already trialling ways to deliver prescriptions by drone, so you don’t have to wait in line at a pharmacy to get your medications.
Drone delivery also provides more accurate package tracking than trying to locate a driver on the road, so you can obsessively stare at your phone while your package draws near. It’s a lot more environmentally friendly than a delivery truck, as the drones are all electric and can travel a considerable distance before returning to recharge.
Lastly, drone delivery can be used to deliver packages to remote locations, allowing more customers to order essential products without having to worry about delivery times.
On the flip side, many of us don’t want drones flying over our homes for safety and privacy reasons- even if it’s to deliver a package. Given that drones like these use full scanning technology and cameras to map their surroundings and collect data constantly, it’s understandable why people won’t be comfortable.
While Amazon has explicitly stated that drones collect no identifiable data when making their routes, not everyone will be such a firm believer. Of course, it stands to mention that anyone who agrees to use a drone delivery service is subsequently also signing over any of their data rights since the data collected has to be used to improve the drones themselves.
There’s another pitfall – the weather. Amazon’s drones are designed to fly in light rain and some wind, but if the weather suddenly picks up during delivery, does the drone abort its delivery schedule or power through? While a driver delivering in a van is probably better protected against the elements and can probably make a slightly delayed delivery, a drone might not be so lucky.
What’s important is that there needs to be a strict safety framework in place to ensure that drones are aware of their surroundings at all times. This sort of sophisticated system will take plenty of time to develop, which also explains why Prime Air is still in a limited coverage space. Drones are also susceptible to hacking or theft, so there needs to be both physical and software measures in place to ensure that drones only go where they are supposed to.
Amazon’s drone delivery service is in a very limited run as the company continues to tweak performance and open up the program to more locations and countries.