back to article YOU ARE THE DRONE in Amazon's rumoured new parcel delivery plan

Amazon looks to be exploring a new way to cut costs by turning you - or anyone willing to deliver parcels - into its drones. In an idea that's most likely a stick with which to beat its delivery contractors, the retail Leviathan reportedly wants Americans to download an app, and if they see a parcel delivery that's convenient …

  1. Old Handle

    It all depends on how much they pay. I mean conventional same-day or next day delivery service isn't exactly cheap. It doesn't seem fair to just assume it won't be worth the price of gas.

    1. Roq D. Kasba

      The last few miles are the worst paid in the independent delivery networks, 40p per package is not untypical, so the only way to make anything approaching break even is to have a lot of packages in the same street, and for that to be close to base. Having watched local delivery affects for MyHermes (as I recall) standing in a freezing, unclean, uneven bit of waste ground in front of a local depot, stuffing rusty cars with packages as they scanned them from the cage, on the floor, it was clear this is a Iow-cost operation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "The last few miles are the worst paid in the independent delivery networks, [...]"

        Yet the economics of international container shipping has apparently made "the last mile" the most expensive leg for an individual package.

        1. P. Lee

          >> "The last few miles are the worst paid in the independent delivery networks, [...]"

          >Yet the economics of international container shipping has apparently made "the last mile" the most expensive leg for an individual package.

          These two go together. Bulk carrying makes things cheap, especially for uniformly packaged goods; individual package delivery is hard to make cost effective. Standard postmen in the past have cut costs by doing everyone in an area, but couriers have relatively few packages which makes them expensive. Email has cut the number of letters, so now even letters are few and far between, driving up unit costs on letter delivery.

          Rather than going for end-user drones, I'd be asking shops (supermarkets?) to become drop-off points though they may see that as self-defeating.

          1. Cuddles Silver badge

            @P.Lee

            "Rather than going for end-user drones, I'd be asking shops (supermarkets?) to become drop-off points though they may see that as self-defeating."

            They already do that, and have for a while. Supermarkets aren't particularly well set up for it (it involves having shop assistants who can go and fetch packages from a store for you), but I have at least 5 or 6 shops within a 15 minute walk of my house that I can collect packages from. It's a big reason I like shopping with Amazon, since actual delivery companies are almost universally incompetent.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "Rather than going for end-user drones, I'd be asking shops (supermarkets?) to become drop-off points though they may see that as self-defeating."

            It's happening. My local newsagents has a parcel collecting & pickup service & the Co-op supermarket has Amazon lockers.

    2. LucreLout

      It all depends on how much they pay

      I'd suggest it also depends on what they do with returns of undeliverable packages.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      We have delivery services that use "normal" people to do the last few miles over here in Germany.

      The couple of cents they get per envelope means that if they have 1 letter in a remote part of their catchment area (sometimes a radius from 20-30KM), they will hold onto the envelope for a week or so, to see if they get any more for that area. Or they will send it back, because it isn't economical to drive 60KM round trip to deliver 1 letter for a cent!

  2. Winkypop Silver badge
    WTF?

    Umm no

    I don't want a random stranger knowing my address and coming to my door.

    Also, stalkers would love it.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Umm no

      Your name and address aren't hugely private. They used to be printed in the phone book. They're also in the electoral roll. A web site claims to know names of 3 people living at my address, which isn't exactly what I expected. Maybe they're using the electoral roll and they don't know about children.

    2. Ralph B

      Re: Umm no

      > I don't want a random stranger knowing my address and coming to my door.

      Well, thankfully they can't possibly get such information from anywhere else.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Umm no

        It's not just knowing a persons address, it's the association of purchases with that address.

        That's PI that could be exploited by an unregulated delivery drone.

  3. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Facepalm

    Drone uniform?

    Will they supply the uniform (striped jumper, eye mask, bag marked "swag")?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Drone uniform?

      Amazon logistics, like most of the low cost final stage delivery services aren't uniformed. Plus it you're not in the parcel probably stays in their car boot till the next attempt and the "sorry we missed you" card gives you their mobile number to ring - there's no depot to go to collect it from. Fortunately I have a convenient Amazon locker I use as otherwise not sure I consider them to be "fit for purpose" anymore.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Drone uniform?

        Amazon logistics, like most of the low cost final stage delivery services aren't uniformed

        Around these parts, our Amazon deliveries are nearly always made by FedEx Ground, which most certainly is uniformed. Of course, it's a low-paying franchise job and the "independent contractors" have to purchase the uniforms out of pocket, just like everything else they use for the job.

        Last-mile delivery services are already exploitative. Personally, I'm not willing to help Amazon make them worse.

  4. Tac Eht Xilef

    Never underestimate the human ability to be conned...

    >"El Reg can't help but think this idea is somewhat less viable than mass delivery-by-unmanned-aerial-vehicles, as humans will surely realise that the pittance they'll get from the company won't be worth the time or fuel."

    Really? I think it's more viable.

    Ask yourself which is more likely:

    * cargo & battery capacity, as well as self-navigation & object-avoidance technology, will advance fast enough that drones will soon be able to quickly, accurately, & reliably deliver reasonably-sized packages within metropolitan areas, OR

    * some people will do anything to earn magic beans & get items on their Amazon wishlists for "free"?

    1. Anonymous Blowhard

      Re: Never underestimate the human ability to be conned...

      "cargo & battery capacity, as well as self-navigation & object-avoidance technology, will advance fast enough that drones will soon be able to quickly, accurately, & reliably deliver reasonably-sized packages within metropolitan areas"

      Even if this happens, they still have to get CAA (UK) and FAA (USA) regulations for non-line-of-sight operation of drones changed (currently it's not allowed). This could take years, if not decades.

      El Reg can't even get approval for launching a balloon in a desert...

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/03/13/lohan_vulture_mug/

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Never underestimate the human ability to be conned...

        they still have to get CAA (UK) and FAA (USA) regulations for non-line-of-sight operation of drones changed (currently it's not allowed).

        No, they do not. Just hoist the NOC in a baloon to 3-5km height. That more than covers with direct line of sight a typical "delivery cell". Do you see the drone? Of course you do. The fact that it is 15 km away and is visible only with optically stabilized equipment assistance is not particularly relevant - you comply with the regs and can use it.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, it did work for Uber..

    As far as I can see, companies that have gotten to a certain size are prepared to do *anything* to scape off a margin here or there, and with their volume they actually tend to get away with it too for a while.

    Uber is IMHO in that respect a classic - "We didn't break the law, it's the driver's fault for not having permits/insurance/driving license/car - we just use them".

    To me, it gives the impression of desperation. Is it that hard for Amazon to make a profit on their turnover? I can't say I like the idea of

    a) strangers getting information on where you live

    b) strangers delivering packages that may be valuable

    c) strangers knocking on my door alleging to be Amazone delivery people

    Let's hope this kite flies as much as much as their drone delivery idea, so not at all.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. frank ly

        Re: Well, it did work for Uber..

        You'd risk death by snu-snu?

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Larhten

            Re: Well, it did work for Uber..

            That would be for Amazon Prime users only

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Well, it did work for Uber..

              That would be for Amazon Prime users only

              I didn't sign up for prime. I buy my prime numbers elsewhere.

              1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                Re: Well, it did work for Uber..

                I buy my prime numbers elsewhere.

                Yeah. The prices they charge for a lot of polynomial roots are irrational, too.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Well, it did work for Uber..

      b) strangers not delivering packages that are valuable

      FTFY

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Roger Greenwood

      I think it will also work for small groups - villages, streets etc. who all could co-operate with each other to collect each others parcels as appropriate and drop off/keep safe. It already happens in many streets between neighbours, just add Amazon/Facebook or similar for the co-ordination and notification.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        " It already happens in many streets between neighbours, [...]"

        It is an unusual week if the postman and various couriers don't ask me to take a package for someone in the street. As they are regular drivers they know I receive lots of deliveries from them and am almost certain to be at home. However I do refuse to take anything for the multiple occupancy Buy To Lets where occupants appear to change frequently.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Every pedermerast will sign-up to deliver toys at Xmas and try to entice the children with a Werthers Original.

  9. Gomez Adams

    So who is responsible when a parcel goes "missing" after being picked up a random stranger?

    1. JimmyPage
      WTF?

      If I were devising such a scheme, I'd probably limit it to long-term Amazon customers.

      (1) they are more likely to be "up for it" (because they are long term Amazon customers)

      (2) they are pretty well known to Amazon (see above).

      Is it just me, or is the level of thought commentards are applying *before* posting dropping ?

      1. Phil W

        "I'd probably limit it to long-term Amazon customers."

        And just how would you define long-term customers?

        If you just mean they've had an account for ages then I know plenty of people who've got dormant accounts because they haven't bought anything through Amazon in years. They're not going to be worried if Amazon cuts them off after 1 high value item went missing in their care.

        If you stipulate that they have to have bought something in the last few months, fine, but there's plenty more who buy 1 or 2 very low value items every few months. They're not going to care about getting cut off either.

        You could perhaps say they have to have spent a certain amount in the last 30/60 days and spread over a certain number of purchases, but their limits your potential human drones significantly.

        Maybe just Amazon Prime customers? Even fewer, but at least these people are more likely to want to keep on good terms with Amazon.

        Genuine questions here though. In the UK this would be a major problem from an insurance point of view, since by delivering parcels for Amazon for pay would invalidate any vehicle insurance that doesn't cover business use (most people don't bother and just stick with social, domestic, pleasure and commuting cover). Would a similar problem exist in the US?

        Also what about parcels which rather than going missing, get damaged while in the care of the "human drone"? Who is responsible for that?

      2. imanidiot Silver badge

        being a long term Amazon customer doesn't automagically make someone more trustworthy. The question still remains, who is responsible if a package disappears? That question is relevant for both the customer as the delivery person. What if I drop off a parcel, but the person receiving claims to have never received it and never to have seen me? Would I be on the hook for lost parcels if I where to deliver packages? If so, better think twice before coming even close to something like this

        Also, I'd claim long term Amazon customers are more likely to be cough potatoes prone to NOT going anywhere and thus NOT being the perfect person for this sort of thing.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Is it just me, or is the level of thought commentards are applying *before* posting dropping ?

        Yes, it is just you :)

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "long-term Amazon customers."

        Look up long firm fraud.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It'll be a delivery service just as good as Yokel

    Kappa

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Money! Kiddie Fidlers! Stalkers! Thieves!

    The comment section reads like old men at a bar.

    What about the positive human side knowing you actually helped someone and at the same time had a small detour from your work run? Similar motivation to GoodGym, maybe even to somewhere interesting you would never end up but for the task.

    Being an honest person and just doing a good deed for the deed over the financial reward?

    I'm a miserable old bastard but these responses lead me to feel I haven't totally sunk to bottom yet.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Money! Kiddie Fidlers! Stalkers! Thieves!

      You are either in it for the money or you are doing someone a good turn.

      You can't really mix the two.

    3. Graham Marsden
      Holmes

      Re: Money! Kiddie Fidlers! Stalkers! Thieves!

      > What about the positive human side knowing you actually helped someone and at the same time had a small detour from your work run?

      What about the positive side of you've just acquired a new lap top/ 4k TV, boxed set of CDs for nothing...?

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Money! Kiddie Fidlers! Stalkers! Thieves!

      @Powernumpty

      Presumably you don't buy from Amazon or your thought processes would run along the lines of:

      1. I pay Amazon good money for whatever

      2. Someone I don't know picks it up from Amazon.

      3. Where is it & who's got it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Money! Kiddie Fidlers! Stalkers! Thieves!

        @ Doctor Syntax

        I don't buy much from them but I would hope my thought process is built on a wider range of experiences.

        1. If you pay "good" money you probably can chose a higher level of delivery charge, not everyone has an income that allows them such largess.

        2. Someone you don't know, already picks it up.

        3. It is probably with the person who last signed for it, one would assume it is possible to verify a person's identity and not just throw it into a crowd with the words "this is for Doctor Syntax!"

        I assume the vast majority of people who buy from Amazon are not crooks, but anyone who would be trusted to do a delivery is going to be, my thought process really does struggle with that logic.

        If some old guy pulls up with his wife sat in the car and you realise he does it to allow him to fund little trips on top of his pension and he has looked after the parcel like his first born and maybe even waited a while to see if you came home because you nipped out, then you might see another side of life, some have more time than money, enjoy meeting other souls and maybe even get a kick from setting some part of life straight for a few minutes.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Money! Kiddie Fidlers! Stalkers! Thieves!

          "then you might see another side of life"

          I spent a long time in a job seeing another side of life. Someone had to.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amazon at it again.

    They love it. Run completely daffy, unworkable, plain stupid ideas up the flagpole, see if anyone salutes them. Even if no-one does, they get free publicity from sites like el reg, and twats like me who take the time to comment on their latest daffy idea. Next up : Parcels delivered by trained Red Pandas.

  13. leon clarke

    This sounds exactly like the UK 'Amazon Logistics' operation that delivers prime stuff

    ...and involves random people in battered vans delivering the parcels. Either Amazon has very odd ideas about how to maintain a fleet of vans, or they're all freelancers in their own vehicles.

    1. Phil W

      Re: This sounds exactly like the UK 'Amazon Logistics' operation that delivers prime stuff

      Not really anything like that from what the article says. The article implies any one at all who has an Amazon account, delivering a parcel because they feel like it.

      In the UK parcels delivered by Amazon Logistics are generally delivered to you by one of three sets of people

      A. A courier company employee in a liveried van

      B. A contractor working for a courier company in a van, possibly liveried possibly not, which they rent or own (sometimes battered but usually ok, since they're contracting for a branded courier company)

      C. An independent individual courier in their own van (more likely to be battered)

      In all of the above cases though the person delivering to you is a professional courier (for a given value of professional) who do this for a living and will have insurance of one form or another.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    freelancers

    A lot companies use freelancers, some (DHL for instance) just insist that the 'freelancer' provides a suitably colour van which they livery. That is why most delivery drivers will do their utmost to deliver a package, which accounts for why its sometimes left in unusual places. They don't get paid for redelivery. Every redelivery comes out of their own pocket.

  15. Tom_

    Next Step

    Why not just go and pick the parcel up yourself? Maybe they could make the warehouse look a bit more presentable for members of the public and while you're there they could let you have a look round to see if there's anything else you fancy. They could provide a few staff that are able to take payment for these additional items. Hey, if they found people frequently bought a few things they could provide little trollies that customers could fill as they wandered around. A bit of parking outside would be neat too.

    I think this might have a future.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Next Step

      Nope. I don't like that idea at all. I've heard rumors that entities like the one you describe did exist once upon a time. People used to have to actually leave their bunkers to get stuff. This was both inefficient, and exposed them to the risks of disease from miasma, and the effects of Strontium 90 from nuclear testing and such. I've not left the safety of my fallout shelter for many years. Now, stories of these so called 'shops', are mainly used as cautionary tales, just to scare kids. Like stories of the boogie man, or Jimmy Savile.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Insurance

    Would Amazon's payment cover the cost if the insurance premium increase? Social, domestic and community won't cover this.

    1. S4qFBxkFFg
      Thumb Up

      Re: Insurance

      I'd assume Amazon (being careful not to actually say so) is planning on potential drones neglecting to consider that point.

      Amazon is happy - delivery gets made for cheap.

      Customer is happy - delivery gets made for cheap.

      Insurance company is happy - when the drone's car hugs a lamppost, no payout!

      Drone is unhappy - no worries, plenty more where that came from.

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