Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos was on CBS’ 60 Minutes last night explaining that his company is working on a way to send packages to customers in 30 minutes or less – by drone.
Called the Prime Air, the unmanned object can carry packages that weigh up to five pounds, which covers 86 percent of Amazon’s deliveries.
Although major delivery companies like UPS and FedEx may not be too happy about the device, imagine what it could do for the development space. For instance, take the challenge of delivering medicine to people in remote areas. Using a device like the Prime Air, these “last mile” consumers would be able to secure the drugs that they need in a timely manner. If it can be sent in 30 minutes or less, pharmaceutical companies may not have to deal with refrigeration. It could also remove some of the challenges in having to store medication. Even without addresses, delivery could be made possible by GPS. Mobile penetration rates are high, and increasing, in rural areas across the developing world.
Other speculated uses of civilian drones are in agriculture to manage crops. Now with a company like Amazon pushing for its widespread application, drones may soon hop out of science fiction novels into the real world, and have real impact on the lives of many people.
Naturally, much more work needs to be done before this becomes a reality. And there are questions around its practicality. If the device hits a bird, say, while delivering a package, what happens? Who is going to insure it? Amazon would have to work out some of the technical elements, such as collision avoidance. Besides, it would likely have to get the Federal Aviation Administration to create rules and regulations.
Still, Amazon estimates that it could implement this technology in four or five years. Currently it is testing on drones that have a range of about 10 miles.
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