The REAL Future of Using Drones for Delivery

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Chris Martin/Flickr
Chris Martin/Flickr

These days, it is not unusual when reading about Amazon, to have the subject of drones mentioned. When we first heard about Amazon using drones, the mental image presented was millions of flying machines delivering online-purchased goodies directly to our door within an hour.

Of course we know that this won’t be happening, at least, not in the near future. However, soon I think we could very well see drones getting us our packages faster. No, not to our doorsteps – the costs, hazards, and regulatory environment of such flights is just not feasible. But, robotic flight can be used to deliver e-commerce orders that will be efficient, effective, and safe within the next decade. In the near future, I see drones flying fixed routes, carrying multiple packages from a fulfillment center to a manned “Click & Collect” access point for customer pickup.

The recently proposed Amazon regulatory framework and set of technical standards would support either the front porch delivery method or the delivery to an access point equally well. The front porch method will not become reality as the volume of e-commerce delivery will continue to rapidly grow and there simply will not be sufficient airspace to handle the volume of drone traffic for single packages to be delivered to an unlimited number of delivery locations, even with Amazon’s suggested regulations.

The idea of using drones to fulfill e-commerce goals is exciting. It shows that technology is moving at an unimaginable rate. However, we need to look at this from a realistic approach. For Amazon, or any retail giant, to use robotic flight to deliver packages to individual destinations would not be practical, safe, or allowed by the FAA. The best way for Amazon to use drones is to use it as a bridge between fulfillment centers and “Click & Collect” points for customers. But don’t let my grasp of reality fool you; I am very excited to see where this technology takes retail. Are you ready for the future of e-commerce?

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Jim Tompkins