The reality is that the drone delivery service currently services only two customers. Over the next several months it will expand to dozens…
The latest high-profile drone delivery came on Dec. 14, when an Amazon test flight made its first delivery to a home near Cambridge in the U.K. — a Fire TV and a bag of popcorn. The news was covered as “a major step for drone delivery” as outlets touted how drone delivery “just became a reality.”
Amazon’s December flight delivered a 4.7-pound package, taking 13 minutes to cover about 2 miles, flying from an Amazon warehouse over the English countryside to a landing pad placed in a customer’s yard.
The reality is that the service currently services only two customers. Over the next several months it will expand to dozens who live near the company’s warehouse.
Flirtey, which calls itself “the world’s first drone delivery service,” used a drone in October to bring its investors socks and a “save-the-date” invitation for its 100 millionth drone delivery. Not mentioned on the save-the-date: the actual date. That would be hard to predict, since Flirtey has yet to make 1,000 deliveries, instead using one-off stunts to sustain interest.
A partnership between Flirtey and Domino’s Pizza Enterprises Limited to create the first-ever drone pizza delivery service received plenty of press, but it can only deliver to buildings within 1 mile of a single store in Whangaparaoa, New Zealand.
As of the end of November, it had made four deliveries since the original launch, according to a Domino’s spokesman.
Logan Campbell, CEO of drone consulting firm Aerotas, says drone delivery has a viable future delivering high value, urgently-needed items, like a heart transplant being shipped to a hospital.
For now, though, obstacles including laws and financial realities, obscure the long path to widespread drone delivery, and there has been little-documented movement toward it since ‘Tacocopter’. Its founders may not have intended it, but TacoCopter created the blueprint for selling drone delivery to the public: Drones doing cell tower inspections or land surveying don’t make headlines.
Flying tacos do.
“Drones bringing tacos captured the imagination of people,” Skylogic Research founder Colin Snow said. “They created a vision. But reality sets in for the majority of people when they recognize it’s a business that has to scale and make money.”
This is just a blistering analysis by Sally French for Marketwatch. These folks continue to ignore the fact that people are not likely to pay much of a premium for a drone delivery service.
And it seems worth remembering that in a survey conducted in the Summer of 2016, 39% of respondents said they would not trust a drone delivery service no matter who operated it – which included seemingly credible choices like Amazon, Walmart and the USPS.
Drone delivery is really a small portion of the drone market, but thanks to Amazon, it is the “face” of the commercial drone industry.
UPDATE Jonathan Rupprecht just put out the perfect complement to Sally’s article entitled “Amazon Drone Delivery – 3 Major Legal Problems with Amazon Prime Air.” This handy dandy map gives some insight into one of the major problems…
I took these addresses [Amazon fulfillment centers in Phoenix] and plugged them into the sectional map (green stars with green arrows) which shows us all the airspace in the Phoenix area. Calm down. I made it easy for you. I used to say to my flight students when I was flight instructing that these maps were like a form of job security. I marked out the areas where the drones cannot fly under Part 107 in red, unless they have an authorization or waiver.
Two of the fulfillment centers are in controlled airspace and would require an authorization or waiver to just take off.
Many have written on this topic because they see the technology taking off. They see the progress in the technology that many have made and assume that drone delivery will be allowed soon. They get the “West Coast” mindset where they think if enough money and technology are thrown at the problem, it will be fixed regardless of the law. Additionally, most writing on or marketing drone delivery do not understand all the legal issues.
Aviation is an “East Coast” industry where the laws out of D.C. will heavily influence the business. Aviation is an extremely regulated environment. The faster the companies operating in this area realize that fact, the better off they will be so that they can actually do these types of operations.
Amazon still has a long way to go before drone delivery can be experienced in real life by the American public, not just as a short clip on the internet.
“It will be like a conveyor belt of drones in the sky”
UPDATE “A ‘Drone City’ Is Being Designed in Time for Tokyo’s Olympic Games” The government has relaxed air traffic rules for Chiba City, where 200 drones will be making deliveries by 2020. The lead for an article in the Indian daily entitled “Almost Human” is:
Come 2020 when the Olympic Games are held in Tokyo, drone deliveries, driverless taxis, and home robots will be the norm in one part of Japan. Visitors will see a beeline of drones in the sky in Chiba prefecture, just an hour away from the capital by train.
At the designated drone zone, to be called Drone City, there will be around 200 of these flying robots whizzing through the air across a 10km distance at any one time, delivering goods from warehouses in Tokyo Bay to apartments that come with built-in landing ports for delivery drop-offs.