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Issue Date: Vol. 53, No. 12, December 2013, Posted On: 12/2/2013

Amazon Unveils Drone Delivery Service, A Concept That Could Take Automated Retailing To New Heights

Emily Jed
TAGS: Amazon drone delivery, online retail trends, chief Jeff Bezos, Prime Air, automated retailing, vending machine, v-commerce

vending, Amazon drone SEATTLE -- Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos revealed a futuristic delivery system that would whiz packages to customers on unmanned aerial vehicles. Called Prime Air, the service would be available for packages weighing 5 lbs. or less. The goal would be for customers to receive their online orders on their doorsteps within a half hour.

Bezos introduced the concept during a segment on CBS's "60 Minutes" on Dec. 1.

He explained that an Amazon distribution center employee would simply enter a delivery recipient's location and the aircraft would autonomously fly to its destination using programmed GPS coordinates.

"The hard part here is putting in all the redundancy, all the reliability, all the systems you need to say -- look, this thing can't land on somebody's head while they're walking around their neighborhood," Bezos said.

Amazon's drone delivery service will also have to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration's new airspace rules for unmanned aircraft, which the agency is aiming to have in place by 2015.

Bezos said Prime Air could be ready for customer use in four or five years.

Dr. Michael Kasavana, NAMA endowed professor at Michigan State University, has called the Internet "the world's largest vending machine." Amazon's high-tech plans for speeding delivery to a half-hour directly to customers' doorsteps demonstrates that online retailing will be even better positioned to immediately satisfy the convenience-oriented consumers that vending operators serve and is a segment worth watching.

Click here to see video footage of a Prime Air test flight.

NOTED: Amazon's "60 Minutes" announcement of its plan to revolutionize package delivery via drone has already, not surprisingly, started running into skepticism. See the Washington Post:

Amazon's drones and the rise of ostentatious R&D

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