These drone deliveries are not going to work very well, except for a few stunts in favourable circumstances that will generate publicity. Amazon will continue to use the very efficient sub-contract drivers who work even on a Sunday and speak very basic English with an East European accent.
Amazon.com is hiring a flight operations engineer to work in Cambridge, UK, to test its delivery drones. The job ad, posted last week, comes with the following responsibilities: Performing as the Safety Observer during Prime Air flight tests, both outdoor and indoor Ensuring that all safety policies are followed during …
Wednesday 12th November 2014 10:16 GMT Brenda McViking
Equally they might just work very well. There are going to be teething problems, there are going to be pitfalls and traps along the way, but if anyone could make this work, it's amazon.
Fundamentally, lugging around 2.7 tonnes of van and employing a person to deliver a package is highly inefficient, even if it is the best way of doing things in the current part of the 21st Century. A drone may well be better at this, but there is a good 5-10 years worth of legwork that needs to be done prior to this becoming reality. This job description reads like a proof of concept trial for an R&D specialist, and works with this timeline.
Go right ahead amazon, let's see where this leads.
Wednesday 12th November 2014 13:02 GMT Anonymous Coward
"Fundamentally, lugging around 2.7 tonnes of van and employing a person to deliver a package is highly inefficient"
There is certainly some truth in that, but it's worth remembering that lugging things along roads is much more efficient than carrying them through the air, and we have in any case millions of people on this planet, all of whom have to be clothed, fed and housed, and preferably given something to do to keep them out of trouble, so unless someone can come up with a better "activity" for all these people it might be better to have them driving (electric) vans around ...
Wednesday 12th November 2014 12:14 GMT Anonymous Coward
..."few stunts in favourable circumstances that will generate publicity"
I can't believe that Amazon would be going to this much effort for a simple publicity stunt. The original video, for sure, seemed like a publicity stunt but it would be very easy to keep that going with just a PR bod. No need to hire genuine avionics types if you are never intending to do this, at least as a genuine proof-of-concept. An ddo amazon really need to generate that much publicity, they are pretty well known?
Seems a difficult task but if I had a choice to manage a driverless car project a few years ago or a UAV delivery project, just based on feasibility I would've have gone for the delivery project for sure. Look at where driverless cars are now with many accepting they may become a reality in their lifetime.
I think it's great that some tech companies are splashing their mountains of cash trying to push the limits of technology to see what can be achieved. Far better than it going to line the pockets of wealthy investors or disappearing into the ether during the pop of the next stock bubble.
Thursday 13th November 2014 20:54 GMT toadwarrior
I'm sure it's not just a stunt but I wouldn't expect this to take off. Not everything Amazon touches turns to gold and so far they've done quite poorly with hardware.
I'm sure they would to have drones simply to have 24 hour delivery and eventually it could mean sacking warehouse staff. The drone can find the item in the warehouse and then take it off to its location. But I think they also realise this is a long way away. It just happens their shareholders let them piss away money.
Wednesday 12th November 2014 10:52 GMT Oh Matron!
Wednesday 12th November 2014 11:10 GMT William Donelson
Wednesday 12th November 2014 12:11 GMT Anonymous Coward
Lets hope they dont base it around the parrot ar drone:
or for those without 802.11
or GPS Spoof
Drone over head, de-auth/jam/spoof, free package for me, all your amazon goddies are miiiine i say.
Wednesday 12th November 2014 12:18 GMT Anonymous Coward
But you could just go an steal directly out of the delivery van when he's making a drop at the moment, or just collect any parcels left in people's garages while they were out.
Heck, you could just smash a delivery van off the road and tie the driver up and steal all the goods.
The ways of stealing peoples goods are very easy at the moment, if you are so inclined. Luckily you are in the minority.
Wednesday 12th November 2014 12:22 GMT Anonymous Coward
Really Amazon? Really?
So, Amazon are incompetent at managing to delivery customer orders anyway, especially now they have introduced their own courier service dubbed 'Amazon Logistics'. What makes Amazon think that they can drive innovation and actually make this concept a successful reality? Laughable.
Wednesday 12th November 2014 12:43 GMT phil dude
tech minded? Really?
IS this the tech minded website I used to know?
Are there no problems that tech CANT solve?
Drones with proper control will be awesome. Just like Robot cars. And mind control video games...
The problem with technology is it doesn't care WHO uses it, and there are some real morons out there...
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Wednesday 12th November 2014 15:36 GMT Desk Jockey
Misleading job title
That is a safety bod job description, not a flight operations engineer. The two are completely different things.
The safety person needs to have a full understanding of the law and CAA rules and procedures. A flight operations person would actually be conducting the test programme itself. The two are meant to be separate for very good reasons.
It is good that they are recruiting this sort of person as their drone stands no chance of gaining CAA approval without it, but unless there is a credible test programme of probably at least two years duration, it just will not be credible. Let's hope they have the right test programme team and a credible plan. The CAA is not tolerant (with good reason) of fast go getters who can't prove their product is safe in an air environment.
Wednesday 12th November 2014 16:45 GMT Anonymous Coward
Have you tried *driving* in Cambridge?
If you want to compare delivering by van versus by air in Cambridge you have to consider that for large parts of the day your van is going nowhere fast.
One way you might consider using it would be to have safe routes from your central warehouse to a number of distributed pickup points strategically placed to avoid the traffic.
ie rather than delivering right to the door with the drone, you have a hybrid system where you are keeping your delivery people supplied without them having to return right back to base.
The other consideration is drone deliveries have the advantage of potentially being customer scheduled.
Ie you get a notification your package is ready - then you say you want it delivered in the next ten minutes and you get pinged when the drone is 30 secs from your door. Avoid the whole 'you weren't in' issue.
Again the drone hop could be quite short - from a moving van - the software automatically knows the 'safe routes' and the van just has to intersect one ( the driver is given directions ) and the drone takes off with the van moving.
So to sum up - a network of static and moving locations ( vans ) connected by safe routes and drones - all optimized by software.
Once you think like that - it's not as silly as loads of drones from a big central warehouse over long distances.
Maybe I should submit a patent....
Wednesday 12th November 2014 22:54 GMT YARR
Not against the idea but...
Battery powered drones are only practical in areas very near to a distribution base, which are usually built up areas where drone flights are currently illegal. Computer guided drones are even less likely to get approval for safety reasons.
Then there's the battery life issue - currently drone batteries only last maybe 15-30 minutes, so they will have to keep swapping batteries on return to base.
I think their application will be very limited at first, perhaps useful for deliveries to hard to access areas.
Thursday 13th November 2014 02:26 GMT John Tserkezis
I don't think anyone gets it here.
These will not be drones that you think of when someone says "drones", look at "Unmanned aerial vehicles".
These will be full-sized planes (well, perhaps small ones) under full computer control, just like regular planes, except the pilot will be sitting on a chair back at their "flight centre" somewhere.
The "drones" are stocked full of crates, and sent to some airport somewhere. At said airport, regular truck drivers will transport stock the rest of the way.
The savings come in through: (I'm speculating here) but since they're going to be mostly flying on auto-pilot, you could conceivably get one pilot to drive more than one plane, er, drone. Not sure what the exact pilot requirements are here, but if they're lax compared to regular planes there could be double duty performed here. Not only that, from what I've been able to scrape, UAV pilot licencing requirements are more lax than regular pilots, so I'm guessing Amazon could save a bit on pay packets there too.