Amazon's serious about drones: Prime Air UAVs will carry 5-lb. packages 10 miles in 3 minutes

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“10 miles in 3 minutes”, that’s 200 mph. Something’s fishy here


This is an interesting point only because I feel people would be more inclined to shoot a robot down more than a human being. Porch pirates are big into the “victimless crime” aspect of what they do, and shooting down a drone doesn’t seem to have the same implications that shooting a UPS driver does.


Spiffy. I’ve been wanting a new drone cheese grater.

Alias: check
Cash card: check
Bogus address: check
Disguise: check
Net: check

More seriously (laughs mechanically), I wonder about the economy of this. Yes, the drones probably have a lower cargo-to-weight ratio than a delivery truck. But they have to fight gravity the whole route to and from their drop location. A truck only has to produce the energy to move horizontally and climb the occasional hill. Even accounting for stop and go traffic the drone won’t have to deal with, I wonder if it won’t end up using considerably more energy. On the other hand, I suppose they could charge the drones off solar power farms (which I think Amazon already uses), as opposed to buying gas. Which makes me wonder why they don’t just buy UPS or build their own delivery fleet. With self-driving electric cars just around the corner, it’s only a matter of time until drones share the road. Will road drones be cheaper to operate than air drones, relegating the latter to express delivery?


That’s awesome, the Vampires in my neighborhood won’t have to go out during the daylight any longer.


Curious how this “detect and avoid” would work. I live in an old neighborhood in Seattle proper (Ravenna), with tall mature trees practically hiding every house on the street, plus a sea of electrical wires and poles. It would be a neat trick to fly something to many of the porches in Seattle.

If it will arrive in 30 minutes isn’t being home the point? Also, yeah, no different than it being left on the porch.


Oh yeah, no doubt! We’ve tried Prime Now! a couple of times already and it is amazing.


There’s also a lot less chance of a truck flying through the airspace some guy with a gun thinks of as “my property”.

“These drones are more like horses than cars,” says Misener.


I know that the V-22 has been reminding everyone that Moving Parts Are Not Your Friends for years now; but I’m still somewhat surprised that the demand for larger payloads and longer ranges hasn’t (at least in available PR shots) driven any visible movement from a slightly larger version of the basic quad-copter design.

Quads are capable of impressive stunts; but I would have thought that adding some sort of lift surface would become attractive when you are going to be doing most of your flying from point A to point B with just a little bit of landing on each end, not swarm research or hovering about for photography or such.


I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon’s drones are actually more likely than average to be doing a bit of snooping(nothing personal, like that neighbor you dislike; but I assume that they want a mapping service, AP/RF location data, etc. just like Google and Apple and others do, and if you are running all those low altitude flights anyway…); but that local standers-of-their-ground will likely discover that Amazon drones have their telemetry routed to humorless people in Amazon Legal with amazing swiftness if certain failure conditions occur.

Purely as a PR and failure analysis matter, they’d almost certainly have a mechanism in place for handling crashes as efficiently and quietly as possible; and it doesn’t require much extra effort to call the local PD if the crash appears to have been externally inflicted.

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It doesn’t matter, because I’ll be able to get that thing that I don’t need, RIGHT NOW! And in our super-capitalist society of instant self-gratification, that’s all that matters. It’s still cool, but I see it as a sign of something.


I imagine a nice dye-packet would come stock, along with HD video beamed home.

I will be quite shocked, if a regulatory framework in the USA that allows for “Amazon Delivery Drones” to be something that is actually happening at a consumer level, manifests in a timeframe any earlier than 2025. Sure, Amazon (and hundreds of other companies) are pushing drone development FAST. But none of that matters, once the hurdle of Uncle Sam comes into play! Remember, the FAA only successfully got vacuum tubes out of the US air radar monitoring system, what… a decade ago? Something like that?

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I don’t doubt that it will take some hammering to get what they want(and everyone and their peanut stand will want a ‘national security’ no-drone-zone); but there is a substantial difference between upgrading a gigantic, hairy, safety-critical, legacy system that isn’t yet broken enough to keep people from suggesting that you really shouldn’t poke it; and approving a more or less ‘greenfield’ new system that a variety of helpful friends conveniently are really enthusiastic about. (It probably also doesn’t hurt that the FAA has the option of authorizing short-range, relatively cheap, drones on a provisional and/or purely domestic basis; while anything that affects international aviation or requires avionics upgrades to airliners is going to be a hell of a mess unless you can get the FAA, EU, and anyone else interested to do something marginally interoperable.)

Amazon’s main problem is likely to be that the areas with the greatest challenges(both regulatory and technical) are also the ones most viable to serve by drone. Thinly settled and low-rise areas with minimal passenger/freight air traffic and just a modest population of light aircraft and crop dusters? A good place to try to get approval; but the number of prospective customers within a viable radius of each distribution center would be pretty lousy.

Dense inner suburbs and metropolitan areas? The market you actually want; but also where all the potential obstructions and people concerned about your plans are.


Can someone with experience with UAVs comment on this from a battery standpoint? Because my gut says that if Amazon had some breakthrough power supply, it’d be in phones and laptops, not flying shoeboxes around the suburbs.

This feels like cheap PR + toys for Bezos. Maybe he’s tired of building his Long Now clock.

When the press release vehicle includes a gasoline engine or generator, then we’re serious about air freight. Not before.

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A friend has a drone he built for aerial mapping which has a 20 minute run time so 30 minutes doesn’t seem much of a stretch. It requires a pretty chunky battery but they’re not that heavy.

This whole Prime Air thing certainly looks like vapourware to hawk Prime subscriptions to me. There are lots of kickers involved here but for me the biggest is that Amazon would have to build lots of mini distribution centres around urban centres in order to be within 5 miles of customers) which goes completely against their business model. And what would those centres stock? Surely the point of this kind of delivery service is that it’s stuff that you can’t get readily nearby at short notice which implies that it’s not day to day stuff that will be requested. Stocking unusual goods in sufficient quantities at multiple locations is not good from an inventory cost point of view.

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But it’s gotta round trip. So your 20m run time is 10minutes * max speed, assuming no reserves or maneuvering. Wind seems problematic.

I don’t think the math ever works on battery power alone. Maybe you could pony express the drones, swapping payloads at rooftop charging points. But complexity kills.

Yeah I’m assuming it’s 5 miles (15 minutes) out and 5 miles back.

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