Four years ago Amazon had promised a dream. To be delivering packages by drones to your front door in 2018. Futurists and drone enthusiasts were titillated and excited by this prospect, while road delivery companies quaked in their boots.
Yet nothing happened. The promise first announced via a major fanfare on a CBS TV 60 Minutes Special in 2013 turned out to be hollow. The dream vanished, leaving behind anger, disappointment and disillusionment.
Just last year, wired.co.uk, for example, wrote an excellent article headed, “The slow collapse of Amazon’s drone delivery dream” which went on “Amazon has triggered mass redundancies and transfers as it winds down a huge part of its UK drone delivery business.” Not only did this “slow collapse” tarnish the company’s reputation, but thrust a knife into the hopes of a general worldwide drone delivery industry.
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And yet, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, in June, Amazon released news that its drone delivery promise was back on track… in the U.S, at least. That Amazon Prime members living in Lockeford, California would be the first customers to receive their deliveries from a Prime Air drone, direct to their backyards. Although, no start date was mentioned. On the company’s website, it again promised the earth, as if the dream had taken a wrong turning and ended up in a cul de sac for four years.
Amazon has even done a 180 degree U‑turn and is now rehiring: “We’re hiring team members across a wide range of technical, operational, and support roles to help us bring Prime Air to our customers around the world. Come join us!”
The company writes, “Customers can expect deliveries for free in under an hour from Prime Air”; “our teams of hundreds of scientists, engineers, aerospace professionals, and futurists have been working hard to do just that”; “the promise of drone delivery has often felt like science fiction”; and “through these deliveries, we will create new jobs, build partnerships with local organisations…” etc, etc.. That dream of Amazon delivering “thousands of everyday items” is being pledged once again.
The company explains, customers at Lockeford in San Joaquin County are to place their orders online and receive an estimated arrival time. “For these deliveries, the drone will fly to the designated location, descend to the customer’s backyard, and hover at a safe height.” Adding, ”It will then safely release the package and rise back up to altitude.”
Basically, what Manna Aero has been carrying out in Ireland or Wing in Australia for the last two years. In that respect, Amazon are behind the curve. It goes on, “Amazon is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and local officials in Lockeford to obtain permission to make the deliveries.”
Yet, with no start date for this trial, Amazon released a further news story in July, adding another location for its tests — College Station, Texas.
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Last week, with still no confirmed date, Amazon published another article, a bit of padding, to keep the promise alive, entitled “How Amazon is building its drone delivery system.” There is no new information, just a rehash from the past.
Therefore, the question being, why the delay? Some might suggest the “Cry Wolf” that Amazon has been baying since 2013 continues. Has the FAA put a spanner in the works? Will Amazon once more have egg over its face? It makes little sense, especially given the other drone delivery trials already achieved or being implemented by Wing, Flytrex and Zipline in North Carolina, USA, for example, or the American Walmart and DroneUp collaboration.
Perhaps, impatience has become the norm?