Yahoo has an interview with Amazon VP for global public policy Paul Misener, going over how the Amazon Prime Air program will work. There’s not a whole lot of new information there (see an earlier video), but there is a whole lot more detail about the information we already have. Effectively, it’s just another step in Amazon’s attempt to make product delivery, at least locally, work as fast as possible. You can already download digital goods like e-books instantaneously, but what if you could get physical goods almost instantaneously?
But what if one of your grandchildren is already visiting you, and she’s playing with an electric truck on the floor, and the battery wears out? On one hand, you could get her all bundled up, put her in the car, and drive to the store to get the battery replacement, and drive all the way back. Wouldn’t it be so much better if you could just go online from Amazon and order it, have it delivered in 30 minutes?
Of course, at the moment people who live in eligible service areas can punch up Amazon Prime Now and have those batteries delivered in an hour or two. But Prime Air would be faster, and it would also mean not having to pay the Prime Now driver. (Though I expect Prime Air wouldn’t actually replace Prime Now, so much as offload a number of lighter/faster deliveries from it.)
Misener also discusses the state of FAA drone regulation, and the helpful suggestions Amazon has made for a legislative framework to keep both drones and manned flight safe. Amazon proposes manned flight at 500 feet and above, a 400 to 500 foot buffer zone, and drone activities at or below 400 feet. He is optimistic about how well Amazon’s ideas have been received. “I think [the FAA and NASA] welcome the thinking that has gone into it. So I’m hopeful that this will spur discussions about exactly how to get this right.”
But if there should be difficulty getting the regulations passed by the time the technology is fully ready, Misener isn’t fazed. He is confident the technology will be safe and effective when it’s fully ready, and if the regulation hasn’t caught up in the US by then, there are alternatives. “Well, we have customers all around the world, of course. There’s no reason why the United States must be first. We hope it is.”
It’s an interesting look into Amazon’s mindset, for sure. A lot of people made fun of the idea of drone delivery as science-fictional when it was first proposed, but Misener makes the point that most of the necessary automation technologies actually already exist—it’s just a matter of getting them to work well together. And Amazon seems to be well on the way there.
I think we’re still a ways off from seeing the kind of drones-for-everything future depicted in Rainbows End, but who knows? Maybe in another year or two, we’ll be welcoming Amazon drone deliveries into our back yards.