38 thoughts on “So why did Jeff Bezos pre-announce plans for drone-based delivery now?”

  1. Amazon’s free cash-flow is on the decline since last many quarters. I think this is a way to signal to investors that it is a company of the future and that they can ignore short term numbers.

  2. Because it is a head fake. He wants competition ti focus on the “how” and not the real customer need he is addressing – “delivering packages within 30 minute window”. That is a real bigger threat to retailers. If the competition focused only on drones they will end up focusing on how to design best quarter inch drill while amazon is really delivering them the best quarter inch holes.

    1. I agree with you in theory on how they are targeting the 30-minute or less as yardstick for delivery of goods and retailers need to be worried. I think it makes sense for them to be aiming towards that goal.

  3. Delivery within 30 minutes? Not unless they produce about as many drones as there are orders made in a 30 minute window (I’m guessing millions) and have a way of recharging them all simultaneously. Or unless they invent a way of carrying more parcels at once and hope that there are a lot of customers on a 30 minutes flight route/window.

    Also, I suspect these would be fairly susceptible to being brought down, either maliciously or simply by colliding with undetected/unmapped hazards such as cables, foliage, birds, etc. Seems like no more than a marketing exercise to me. It’s certainly not a practical way to deliver packages.

  4. Maybe because today is Cyber Monday and Amazon’s brand name is now flying around the net more than ever?

  5. To shift attention from the bad press they are getting about the working conditions in their centers to this new “cool” thing. Drones!

  6. Om i have a simple take: he needed to have a massive “Free ad campaign” for CyberMonday…and by announcing something cool he got the WHOLE WEB to talk about Amazon for free. JUST IN TIME for Cybermonday

    Well done amazon. You just save 20m USD in marketing spend

  7. FAA pressure and trying to reduce the stigma of drones. Many Americans hear drones and immediately think NSA spying or CIA Reapers.

  8. i think there are several valid reasons. Bezos becoming seen as more like Jobs in the ‘ And one more thing” could add value to the stock. On a more practical stance, its likely that the FAA testing guidelines would make it near impossible to maintain secrecy much longer. The most likely application for drones in the near future, and one that would require absolutely no license, would be an uber like model where the drones reside on carrier vehicles that are dispatched out into the city. The vehicle driver could then launch a drone line of sight to drop a package at a destination, or even multiple drones to multiple locations at the same time. Imagine an amazon van pulls into your neighborhood and launches a swarm of delivery drones. One driver could deliver 100 packages in maybe 300 seconds. Now that’s efficiency.

    1. Michael

      All fair points and thanks for sharing your feedback. I do think this whole drone-thing is a headfake for their real ambition: deliver within 30 minutes or less.

    2. Speedier still is to use bigger drones or even choppers to reach some optimal launch point mid-air from where the smaller drones get dropped off. After the delivery is done, the smaller drones rejoin the bigger drone mid-air.
      You can design a whole tree of these split-points mid-air, haw haw. Kinda like the Russian Matroska dolls one inside another. The bigger drone will drop off the smaller drone and so on until the leaf drones deliver the actual product.

  9. Between driverless cars and drones, I think the former will come to fruition much sooner. If I understood correctly the range of the drones is relatively small because of battery life that would mean many more fulfillment centers will need to be built. But I agree it’s pushing the envelope that counts, fiction of 5 years ago is now reality.

  10. I agree with the shock and awe strategy. Big box retailers are no where close to amazons fulfillment speed. Bezos is baiting them into a “me too” strategy.

    On additional uses for drones I was hypothesizing healthcare use for first responders. Imagine being able to deliver a life saving shot to someone having a heart attack or stroke minutes before the ambulance gets there. Instant delivery, regardless of “how” (drone, teleport, magic) has HUGE potential.

  11. This was probably filmed weeks in advance, so I doubt it was timed to distract from the working conditions story

  12. 30 minutes or less? Hello, Dominos. Drone the order to the local branch and pay them to hit the house while making their pizza route. Work it with any other speedy local food delivery service.

  13. From a regulatory and future legal perspective I think Amazon needed to put this out there now. The personal privacy communities (don’t use your drone to spy on me you creep) and safe airways (don’t fly that into my helicopter nor into the side of my car / head / bus) contingencies have been pushing for regulation. There have not been a real use case other than hobbyists and academics who have been laid out before legislators and regulators as of yet. The “let’s ban the Segway” before it gets any traction for use has been concern for those thinking through the viable uses for drones for regular life (non-military / spying).

    Bezos putting the drone delivery option out there gives some potential positive uses that legislators and regulators can thing about when considering what to do with drones.

  14. Perhaps they could team with Google on helium-borne hotspot/warehouses that would drop the products to glide down on recyclable foam wings.

  15. I think it is to gain PR besides creating confusion in its competitors’ ranks. Like flying cars drone-delivery is quite far off. The challenges are numerous besides technical / regulatory. How would they ensure drone-package safety ? weather conditions?

    I won’t be surprised if Amazon is using these drones internally in their warehouses for prototyping and field testing.

  16. I just wonder if he’s ever going to get his Blue Origins spaceships flying.

    We’ve been hearing about those for over 10 years and still nothing.

  17. My guess is because of the huge drone debate and also FCC regulation — that they realize that this issue needs to be vetted in the court of public opinion as well as the court of law/FCC regulations. Personally, there’s nothing I need so badly as to have to have it air dropped to my home. I would rather do the drive to the local store and get to know my neighbors along the way.

  18. I think the “now”, as in right this second, was a PR/advertising stunt. But the answer to the question of “why this season?” could simply be that they think their research into autonomous drones is far enough along to where they can see it has a chance of actually working… in 4 to 5 years.

    Interestingly, Amazon is hiring experts in Deep Learning, and it appears they have a particular interest in Computer Vision (CV). Why computer vision, specifically? Well, I suppose it might be useful for some of their yet-to-be-released consumer technology items we’ve heard about (e.g. their smartphone); but it would also be extremely useful to them — in fact, necessary — if they are truly pursuing drone delivery.

    1. Thanks for a thoughtful comment. i think you are right about the long term but I am going to see them use more machines in their entire operation – robots, drones whatever to keep pushing the envelope. Good of you to share information on Amazon’s hiring patterns.

  19. Well now that Amazon is the largest data holder for the NSA it makes sense that they will be using drones to track the entire US population

  20. For a company that is barely making a profit, they had better focus on generating a profit rather than exploring far out strategies. I suspect this is a diversion for upcoming future bad news on earnings. Amazon has earned less that 3% on a revenue stream that has nearly doubled over the past three years. Each year it gets worse – so where is the economy of scale? In drones?

  21. It’s just another take on the the MatterNet concept. Endgame is on-demand delivery, so you can receive when you are actually at home, or allow dumping a delivery container in your presumably more secure backyard (compared to your front porch. Possible spoiler is cutting delivery firms out of the revenue pie, which leads to an overall logistics based concept endpoint, 3D printing at logistics centers. If Amazon allows light customization of simple objects at high resolution, then why even buy a home 3D printer at all? With only printer ingredients as an input to a logistics center, it cuts out backend logistics suppliers/product shippers from the revenue pie too. Anything more complex is a conventional product that is shipped and stored on-site like a normal warehouse. Pickers get Kiva robots to deliver goods, but now they also have to pack for balance in the travel container.

    So, Amazon sets up Shapeways type facilities at logistics centers, sends packages after packing/completion of printing on the demand of the customer. Use cell networked cameras on the drone to allow Amazon mechanical turkers to check landing sites for safety prior to setting down. For more range, a chubbier version of a hybrid flying wing/quadcopter like a Quadshot with the container recessed in the centerbody would work decently.

  22. It’s been stated in other ways, but the best way to motivate the FAA is to show there is an opportunity to generate large amounts of new wealth and commerce by finding a way for enterprise to use drones.

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