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Amazon.com sees delivery drones as the future

Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:44pm
Scott Mayerowitz, AP Business Writer

Amazon.com is already cracking same-day delivery. Next up: getting your package delivered quicker than a pizza? The online retailer is working on a way to get customers their goods in 30 minutes or less — by drone.

Amazon.com said it's working on the so-called Prime Air unmanned aircraft project in its research and development labs. But the company admits it will take years to advance the needed technology and for the needed federal Aviation Administration rules and regulations to be created.

The project was first reported Sunday by CBS' "60 Minutes."

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said during the primetime interview that while the octocopters look like something out of science fiction, there's no reason they can't be used as delivery vehicles.

Bezos said the drones can carry packages that weigh up to five pounds, which covers about 86 percent of the items Amazon delivers. And the current generation of drones that the company is testing has a range of about 10 miles, which Bezos noted could cover a significant portion of the population in urban areas.

While it's tough to say exactly how long it could take the project to get off the ground, Bezos told "60 Minutes" that he thinks it could happen in four or five years.

The stock rose $3.93, or about 1%, to $397.55 in premarket trading, having closed Black Friday's shortened market session at $393.62.

While many regulatory hurdles stand in the way, it's not hard to imagine how such a service might change our lives. Forget home delivery. With the so-called Prime Air unmanned aircraft project, Amazon can potentially deliver goods to customers who are camped out in the middle of a field. Here are some novel ways consumer might make use of a delivery drone service:

  • Sitting at the ballpark and don't want to pay $8.50 for a beer? No worries, as an Amazon Prime customer, the "Amazon Express Chopper" will bring you a cold six-pack of your favorite craft beer for just $7.

  • You're out on a romantic picnic with your girlfriend when the silence is broken by a low buzzing. The chopper slowly approaches her with a diamond ring and a note: Will you marry me?

  • Out hiking in the woods and hungry? Don't fret. Amazon will bring you a hot pizza with all the toppings. And don't forget that 30-minutes-or-less guarantee.

  • Want the latest news? Twitter and iPhones are so 2013. Amazon will bring you a freshly printed copy of the Bezos-owned Washington Post.

  • For the right price, maybe the drone will even change your baby's diaper and fly off with the dirty one.

  • Your high school English teacher announces a Monday morning pop quiz. But you didn't bother to read Macbeth over the weekend. No worries, Amazon will race the Cliff's Notes version to you faster than you can say "summer school."

  • Forgot your mother's birthday? No you didn't. Amazon will fly flowers to her doorstep with "hand-signed" card —at any hour.

  • Finally, an unmanned aircraft could be used to deliver your very own drone. Just don't use the new toy to start delivering goods yourself. If you do, Bezos might send his new drone army after you.

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