Amazon Prime Air: A New Era of Drone Dominance in Online Retail Distribution

Amazon Prime Air: A New Era of Drone Dominance in Online Retail Distribution

Amazon Prime Air delivery service is ready just in time for Christmas. Albeit a trial delivery, the step is an optimistic move for the e-commerce and cloud computing innovator considering its long beta-testing mode around drone delivery system. CEO Jeff Bezos is convinced that Amazon about drone dominance in online retail distribution in the near future.

The First Flight: Successful Beta-Testing 

Amazon has been trying to deliver items using drones. This week, for the first time in three years, the e-commerce giant successfully delivered a package using a drone. The package containing popcorn and a Fire TV video-streaming device was delivered to a farmhouse near Cambridge, U.K. It took about 13 minutes for the drone to reach its destination. Amazon released a video showing the drone’s journey from its launch till delivery. The initiative called Prime Air has proved to be a huge success marking a new era of delivery for the Seattle-based online shopping and content distribution company.

Amazon Prime Air aims to deliver ordered packages within 30 minutes to logistically inaccessible areas.For the first few weeks, it plans on using drones in the Cambridge area depending on weight of the package, duration of the day and weather conditions. Drones will only deliver items weighing less than 5 pounds during the day. Customers can place orders using the Prime Air app.

Delivery in Rural versus Urban Areas

According to Ivan Hofmann, a former FedEx executive, the concept of delivering through a drone is very interesting but can’t be used everywhere. In urban areas, drone deliveries have two challenges to tackle:

  1. Finding way through the congested traffic and buildings
  2. Finding a landing space to make safe deliveries

It will be interesting to see how Amazon Prime Air tackles this issue for urban areas.

The difficulty in delivering orders to rural areas is the main reason why Prime Air was launched. Traditional delivery models prove to be inefficient and costly for certain rural areas. Rural areas are perfect for drone deliveries as traffic is hardly an issue and finding open landing spaces is  easy too.

Major Competitors in Drone Delivery 

Like Amazon Go, Amazon Prime Air will be catering to only a very niche category of online customers. Apart from Amazon, there are other companies that are already using or are experimenting with drones for deliveries. Google started a project on drones in 2012 but failed to come with a compact design. Flirtey Inc., a startup based in New Zealand, started delivering Domino’s pizza using a drone. United Parcel Service Inc. also did a drone test in September 2016 for delivery of small items like medicines., an e-commerce company based in China, operates drones for package transport to rural communities.

The Drone Scenario in US

Amazon had to seek special permission from the UK aviation ministry to run its first drone beta flight. In US, Amazon won’t have an easy flight due to strict FCC and FAA regulations regarding the flying of drones and has special designated areas where drones can operate.

In order to make drone delivery a main stream model, the drone operators have to figure out air traffic control in urban areas before their large scale deployment. 7-Eleven, Amazon’s Prime Air or Alphabet’s Project Wing can happen at a larger scale only when FAA permits drone operations beyond the line of sight of the operator.

So far, Amazon’s Prime Air is the fastest parcel delivery model that ensures highest adherence to overall safety promoting congestion-free logistics system for e-commerce experience.



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