The Amazon delivery drone prototype in action at the Amazon wearhouse, picking up a package.
Looking to take advantage of online sales, millions of people will be ordering online goods on this "Cyber Moday." While those goods will likely arrive in a week or so, delivered by USPS, UPS or FedEx ground crew, delivery methods may soon enter into new air space, compliments of the ubiquitous drone.
Last night, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos dropped a bombshell on the Sunday night TV news show "60 Minutes" when he said that his company was developing so-called "copter" drones to deliver online goods, with a tentative launch date potentially arriving in the next four to five years.
Though further safety testing and FAA approval is needed, the “octocopter” drones — dubbed Amazon “Prime Air” — are slated to deliver packages of around five pounds. Bezos told “60 Minutes” correspondent Charlie Rose this weight comprises almost 86 percent of Amazon’s deliveries and that using the electronic drones could cut down on carbon emissions.
As Amazon continues to build their distribution centers across the the United States, Bezos also hinted that the drones could potentially make same-day delivery a reality. He even upped the ante, envisioning packages arriving 30 minutes after buyers click the "buy" button.
Up until now, most innovative drone usage has been relegated to techie-fringe researchers and hobbyists that, let’s be honest, many average people haven’t heard of unless they’re tech hounds. From a mainstream cultural standpoint, Bezos’ network TV revelation did more than just give us glimpse of the future of e-commerce delivery.
For the last decade, the median age demographic of "60 Minutes" has hovered around 60, an age not likely familiar with quirky copter drones and all their capabilities. For many older, non-techie, mom-and-pop middle Americans, last night’s episode represented a watershed moment and introduced them to the roles drones will play in the next 10 years.
Even for those familiar with drone tech — myself included — there was real gravity to Bezos’ announcement, as Amazon seems poised to be the first major company to make good on delivery drones, once and for all altering their cultural perception from science fiction trope to contemporary reality.