back to article Amazon's first live drone delivery flew last week in Cambridge, UK

Amazon.com has revealed that it's made its first delivery by autonomous aerial drone, to a chap named “Richard B” who lives somewhere in Cambridgeshire, England. Richard ordered a bag of popcorn and an Amazon Fire TV. Amazon's released a saccharine video to mark the occasion. If you'd rather not endure it embedded below, the …

  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    In an urban environment

    It's hard to see how the drone complies with 'not below five hundred feet above the highest near object' and 'fly under four hundred feet'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In an urban environment

      It uses a Jump-Diffusion Equation Model to skip the discontinuity between 0' and 500'.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    How long…

    … before every cowboy courier in the country is doing it and we all have to wear hard hats when outdoors in case of raining drones?

    Seriously… This Will Not Scale!

  3. TRT Silver badge

    Popcorn you say....

    I wonder if they do other snacks and baked goods. I look forwards to ordering a packet of air biscuits.

  4. Buttons
    Stop

    I wonder how long . . .

    . . it will be before my neighbours drop off a brace of drones instead of a brace of Pheasants

    1. GruntyMcPugh

      Re: I wonder how long . . .

      Why would they shoot at a drone delivering to their property?

      Oh, I see, you are implying your neighbours will shoot at a drone over someone else's property, or over a public space. Or towards, or within 50ft of a highway? All of these are an offence, and they'll go to jail. It's not rocket science to work out who has been issued with a shotgun certificate in the same postcode as a drone was downed, is it?

      And why would your neighbours, or anyone do that, exactly? Do they shoot at aeroplanes?

      1. ADJ

        Re: I wonder how long . . .

        It is East Anglia.......

      2. Uffish

        Re: " It's not rocket science"

        Ever heard of the Range Rover?

      3. caffeine addict

        Re: I wonder how long . . .

        "Oh, I see, you are implying your neighbours will shoot at a drone over someone else's property, or over a public space."

        I'm not sure if you are aware of this, but to get from one person's property to another person's property, you need to go over a third person's property.* They can shoot at it over their own property...

        ( * which I guess could be the highway, but you take my point )

        1. GruntyMcPugh

          Re: I wonder how long . . .

          You aren't allowed to shoot things that fly over your property under any circumstances. You make a complaint, you don't take the law into your own hands.

          Also, there are several codes of conduct and legal restrictions that limit the flight paths of drones, especially drones equipped with cameras, so Amazon will not be allowed to fly over the property of a 3rd party with a camera equipped drone, and the drone flying code of conduct says drones must not be flown within 50m of buildings and people other than the operator.

  5. Paul E

    I think the rural bit is part of the current restrictions on their testing than a limitation of where they could go. Ditto I think the current 2 customers is that it must be in sight of the backup pilot for the duration. The interesting question is how much testing are they going to have to do before those limits are lifted.

  6. Anonymous Blowhard

    "It looks like a human operator oversees the launch, but we don't see a human with override of the autonomous flight as required by UK law"

    So maybe the CAA should be next in the queue to HMRC to speak to Amazon?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Are CAA fines tax deductible?

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        No, if the fine is levied on the company. Yes, if they pay it on behalf of an employee, but then the employee has to pay tax on the payment.

      2. Lotaresco Silver badge

        "Are CAA fines tax deductible?"

        Dunno, but you really don't want to know how angry I am to have been fined for being late submitting some official documents in Italy[1] and having to pay VAT on the fine.

        [1] Five years after the event and it wasn't me that was late submitting the documents.

    2. Paul E

      Just because they were not in the video does not mean that they were not there. Would be surprised if the CAA where not actually on site at the time.

  7. A K Stiles Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Nauseous

    From the smaltzy voice-over, not the swooping video footage.

  8. Andy 73

    It might just fly

    I've just realised that urban deliveries are probably not the target for this. The Amazon van man can drive past a dozen customers in half a mile of city driving, cheap as chips delivery. In rural areas, he's got a twenty minute drive to get to a single customer, then possibly the same again to get to the next. Pack in a few drones with a decent radius of operation and suddenly the single slow and expensive delivery man can be replaced and deliveries run in parallel.

    Of course it helps that around here where Amazon are testing, the landscape couldn't get much flatter.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: It might just fly

      I agree, this is probably the point. Counter to that though, in a place like London the average traffic speed is 4 miles an hour. Not great for fast deliveries.

      In the end though I doubt this whole drones for deliveries is ever going to get anywhere.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: It might just fly

        In the end though I doubt this whole drones for deliveries is ever going to get anywhere.

        You don't think the idea will fly?

        1. imanidiot Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: It might just fly

          Well I certainly doubt the idea has legs!

  9. Paul 25

    Getting started early

    This feels like a nice gimmick, but clearly not practical at the moment, and I don't think Amazon think it is either.

    But Amazon appear serious about this. They've put some effort into those drones and the infrastructure around them. Basically they seem to be ironing out how such a system works in the expectation that the efficiency, range and carrying capacity of the drone will increase over time with improved battery tech.

    It feels like one of those long bets that won't pay off for a good few years, but they will be ready if/when it does.

  10. Richard Scratcher
    Coat

    Early days

    It's easy to scoff at Amazon's early attempts (especially if you've ordered popcorn) but this beta system isn't even v1* yet.

    *Now there was an autonomous delivery system: fast, large payloads, long range, not very accurate but could deliver to urban areas.

  11. Milton

    No, it's still bloody stupid

    * They will never be safe in an urban environment

    * They will absolutely *have* to operate out of visual range, to be remotely useful (no pun intended)

    * Drones with more than a few scant miles' range are still not feasible (and the bigger they are, the more dangerous)

    * It's only a matter of time before one drops on or near something important, like a playground

    * Or brings down a helicopter, or runs into the side of an office building, or ...

    * Amazon cannot carpet the country with warehouses, and the idea of a mothership truck driving around operating like an aircraft carrier is daft (if you're using the truck, why not drive to the address in the first place?)

    * The expenses of maintaining a fleet large enough to be useful will be high

    * Some mischievous types, or those legitimately irritated at invasion of their airspace, will take potshots (think air rifles, crossbows, bow and arrow) (no, I'm not justifying it: but if the human race includes f***tards who'll shine lasers at commercial jets, any stupid act that can be committed, will be committed)

    * You may even nurture a criminal sub-culture specialising in potting drones and harvesting the goodies

    * And I absolutely *guarantee* you a technical arms race between hackers and drone delivery operators ("Where's my new £400 phone?" "Sorry, the drone made an unauthorised landing somewhere near Acacia Avenue and neither it nor phone have been seen since")

    The very first time someone is hurt, or a what-if crash occurs (e.g. the playground scenario), the whole idea will be dropped. Drones are not even an order of magnitude as reliable as civil aviation, so *either* they remain a very rare, pointless oddity, *or* they are used in sufficient numbers that accidents begin to happen. It's inevitable.

    So I continue to believe that this is mostly an Amazon publicity stunt. Widespread use at today's tech level: plain irresponsible.

    The government is quick to waste billions harvesting websites visited by 99.99% of the law abiding population, while the 'serious' criminals and terrorists use encryption which cannot be broken, and in the meantime it does absolutely nothing useful about drone regulation—and the useless bastards will continue to do nothing until, most likely, a few hundred people die when a 737 on climb-out inhales five kilos of steel, electronics, battery and the new hardback 'Fifty Shades of Drivel'.

    Heaven forfend, but if it happens, I hope the plane is full of the fatarsed ministers who wasted time on authoritarian repression instead of genuine public safety.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: No, it's still bloody stupid

      It's easy to come up with reasons why something will never happen. Like personal car ownership. And driverless cars. And a PC in every home. And people replacing their PC with a tablet/phone.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: No, it's still bloody stupid

        And paperless offices!

    2. alpine

      Re: No, it's still bloody stupid

      Yup. It's aimed at keeping their delivery contractors payment demands down, nothing more.

  12. TRT Silver badge

    The video was missing something...

    Music...

    Like this:

    would be fitting

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: The video was missing something...

      I prefer this.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anvils

    I'm ordering a family pack of anvils. You can never have enough anvils.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Anvils

      Super-strength ceramic magnets. I'll just place this delivery marker mat on top of this iron drain cover...

    2. hatti

      Re: Anvils

      Beat me to it, I was going to order a tank, you can never have enough tanks

    3. Captain DaFt

      Re: Anvils

      "I'm ordering a family pack of anvils."

      Make sure it's the famous Acme brand. Airborne since 1948!

    4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
  14. JDX Gold badge

    Recursion

    I want to order a drone.

    1. Hero Protagonist

      Re: Recursion

      It's drones all the way up

  15. hi_robb

    Fair play to Amazon

    I didn't think this idea would get off the ground...

  16. Chris G Silver badge

    If

    Enough of them get flying I am certain they will provide good cover for nefarious types to copy the livery and take to the skies for other deliveries, especially the smokable type.

  17. Cuddles Silver badge

    Range is the killer

    "Delivery will be possible “within several miles” of Amazon's shed;"

    Which is why this will never be useful in a commercial sense. The entire reason for Amazon's success, and that of online shopping in general, is they're able to have a small number of huge warehouses with a wide range of goods that can deliver to anywhere in the country, instead of relying on small, specialised local retailers that are only useful to those nearby. If they're reduced to small, local facilities with limited variety and amount of stock, there's no longer anything to set them apart from a regular shop. OK, there is one thing; it's possible to buy things heavier than 2kg in most shops.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Range is the killer

      "Delivery will be possible “within several miles” of Amazon's shed;" Which is why this will never be useful in a commercial sense.

      You might want to look at the progressive build out of Amazon logistics centres before being quite so sure. And don't forget the "delivery stations" either. Chances are you're within a few miles of one.

      I live in the (pleasantly) desolate rural/suburban wastelands south of Birmingham, and thought I was about fifteen miles from any sort of Amazon location. Did a search on jobs (the easiest way of finding out), and there's three different levels of logistics hubs easily within a ten mile radius, with the nearest about four miles away.

      Amazon: They know where you live, and they're coming for you

  18. JaitcH
    Thumb Down

    Amazon NOT First Flight - Just More PR

    The first drone delivery in the USA, approved by FAA officials was made, thanks to drone startup Flirtey in collaboration with 7-Eleven. It successfully carried and dropped off a chicken sandwich, hot coffee and donuts from a 7-Eleven store in Reno, Nevada

    Tough, Amazon, that makes your delivery number two.

    See: > http://phys.org/news/2016-07-donuts-flight-us-approved-drone-delivery.html <

  19. Lotaresco Silver badge

    He looks like he could do with...

    Forgoing the popcorn and walking to the shop and back. Many, many times.

  20. Mike Minh

    He was at home.

    It didn't rain.

    Nobody stole the parcel.

    Success all round, eh?

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