Do Amazon’s Drones Signal Larger Ambitions?

Amazon’s drone delivery marks the tip of a massive logistics plan. Should delivery services like FedEx and UPS be worried?

Amazon’s delivery service is taking off. Literally.

Last month, the company made its first drone delivery in England. The package contained popcorn and a Fire TV video-streaming device. It dropped down for delivery at a farmhouse on the outskirts of Cambridge.

The move signals the company’s larger ambitions to build its own transportation network, controlling the last mile of delivery more closely. And drones play an essential roll. The online retailer plans to launch an army of airborne drones under Amazon Prime Air. According to the website, Amazon’s drones can deliver packages up to 5 pounds in 30 minutes or less.

Amazon says they “will deploy when and where we have the regulatory support needed to safely realize our vision.” Besides England, rollout of Amazon Prime Air targets the U.S., Austria and Israel.

To prove how serious Amazon takes drones – and delivery – a patent filed last month shows the company sketching plans for “airborne fulfillment centers.” These flying drone delivery aircrafts essentially act as enormous motherships, launching armies of flying delivery robots.

The patent describes a blimp or other airship filled with goods, which can cruise at altitudes of up to 45,000 feet. Amazon’s drones swoop down from the flying warehouse, to deliver goods “in minutes.”

The filing lists several potential uses for the warehouse blimp. For example, football goers at a stadium might want food or merchandise delivered to them in the stands. The blimp could also advertise products and allow customers to order the items on display, with their wares distributed on-demand. Amazon Prime Air could also get into the meal-delivery businesses. “Perishable items or even prepared meals can be delivered in a timely fashion to a user,” says the patent.

  Related: Ford Gets Serious About Car Drones

Disrupting Delivery Companies

Although Bezos says publicly that drone delivery service (and recent leases of cargo airplanes) aren’t meant to displace FedEx or UPS, something’s definitely brewing.

And who would dismiss it? After all, the online bookseller-turned-retailer-turned web hosting service-turned TV producer often defies the traditional constraints of its business. Money’s on it. Let it roll.

   Article written by MG Rhodes  Submitted: 2/24/17

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