Welcome to PhantomPilots.com

Sign up for a weekly email of the latest drone news & information

Brainstorming ideas about Amazon Air (drone delivery)

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by TimmyG94, Jan 3, 2015.

  1. TimmyG94

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2014
    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    1
    Now that I'm a P2 Vision+ owner for several months, I often find myself thinking about ideas about how the drone industry will evolve.

    Amazon looks quite determined to make drone delivery work. They've already threatened to move offshore with drone operations if the FAA won't cooperate. I read the autobiography of CEO Jeff Bezos and this guy is like a pit bull when it comes to getting what he wants. If I was an FAA board member, I'd be scared of this dude. One way or the other, he's gonna make it happen.

    Along that line, I was thinking one cool idea is to have people sign up to be "dropoff stations" for these Amazon Air drones. It's going to be a total nightmare trying to maneuver a large commercial drone into tight spaces like a large city or suburbs. So I think Amazon will probably start developing drop stations where their drones can easily land to deliver items, and then customers will have to drive to these drop stations to pick up their items. Amazon sort of already does this with their "Amazon Locker" service where items are delivered to a 7-Eleven store that has an Amazon locker inside it. You walk inside and enter your order # and secret password and the locker opens up so you can get your item. I tried this when I was in Washington DC recently and it worked great! :D

    I live in a ravine with big trees around my yard and driveway, so it would be close to impossible for a large Amazon drone to land safely. However, I have neighbors around me with wide open yards that could easily accomodate a big drone, and any one of these people could sign up to be a "drop station" with a big locker installed at the end of their driveway and receive a small fee for every package they accept for other customers. Then, I would simply drive to one of these nearby drop stations to pick up my package.

    If you take it a few steps further, anyone who signs up to be a dropoff station could use their locker for any retailer they want, not just Amazon. Once commercial drones become popular, then a locker could be used to store items delivered by Wal-Mart, Walgreen's Pharmacy, Pep Boys, Starbucks, etc. Think of all the possibilities, and everyone makes money. :p

    This really could work and make Amazon Air a real possibility within a few years. What do you think? ;)
     
  2. PhantomFanatic

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2014
    Messages:
    1,143
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    USA, GA
    I've been thinking about this for awhile. I can't claim Jeff as a friend, but we have emailed a few times. You are right, he is dead serious about this, so I'm sure he has worked out the details, that elude me.

    People are used to getting Amazon deliveries at home. Though, even though I sell on amazon, I wasn't aware of the drop off locations.,,why do they do it?

    I think it will have to be semi-door to door. One thing I do know, is Amazon is already hiring and training drone fliers. Supposedly, the salary is $60K a year. So, he must have already purchased at least some drones.

    What eludes me is the low flight times for these drones that can carry, say 30lbs. Let's say the flight time is 15 minutes. Does anyone know the flight speed? Anyway, the drones have to return, so that cuts way down on the flight distance, but it would be unloaded on the return flight.

    What is a brain teaser is just about every city or town will have to have a drone center. For city's like Atlanta, that would take many D centers. That means plane and truck deliveries to each D center. That would cost Amazon MUCH more. But, I'm sure he sees it as a cost reduction, long term.

    Then tack on homes with many trees, etc. that may make it near impossible to get a drone to. I can see drones being more useful for pizza deliveries. But, some of the issues are the same.

    Does anyone have a theory that is workable?
     
  3. TimmyG94

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2014
    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    1
    I don't agree with you that initial rollout of Amazon Air will be carrying heavy items up to 30 lbs. That would require a really BIG and powerful drone, probably a nitro-powered beast of some kind. It would frighten small children when it passed overhead from the noise and sheer size of such a flying monster.

    The "60 Minutes" special about Amazon that aired in 2013 stated that the majority of Amazon shipments weigh less than 5 lbs, so this is very workable for future drone delivery. Most electric octacopters on the market right now could probably manage a 20 min. roundtrip carrying a payload of up to 5 lbs, maybe with an extra battery. Plus, there is no reason they couldnt use nitro-powered drones which have more lifting capability.

    There is virtually no feasible way for Amazon Air to work unless there are a few distribution centers in every large city. A big city like Atlanta would probably need 5 or 6 Amazon warehouses spread out evenly to give an electric drone a short roundtrip flight to reach 90% of customers within 15 miles of downtown Atlanta.

    Lots of logistical details to be worked out, but Ole Jeff is already losing sleep thinking about this idea. He'll make it happen, bet on that. :D
     
  4. Buckaye

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2014
    Messages:
    1,557
    Likes Received:
    420
    Location:
    Orlando
    I live in Florida.... The battery comment above is especially true here because there are lakes everywhere... Also... I have more than a couple neighbors who would consider these things target practice.

    Whatever they come up with will have to be fairly limited in some way.
     
  5. dutch

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2014
    Messages:
    111
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Upstate NY
    on one of my first flights with my phantom2 vision plus the neighbor thought it was
    an amazon delivery. she had ventured up the road on foot to see where that "drone"
    was, as she saw it coming down on my property at the end of my flight
    (she saw it fly around over my property during the flight too and was taking
    a bunch of pictures)
    she thought for sure it was Amazon delivering a package... and when i told her the news
    that i had my own quad she was "amazed"... LOL
     
  6. Buckaye

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2014
    Messages:
    1,557
    Likes Received:
    420
    Location:
    Orlando
    You should have told her it was from Amazon and they were supposed to deliver a diamond ring...but it fell off somwhere "over there" and watch her go look for it :) :lol:
     
  7. TimmyG94

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2014
    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    1
    Within 5 years, the sound of angry hornets above your house will be associated with happiness .... that means an Amazon Air drone is ready to deliver a package! :p
     
  8. Narrator

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2014
    Messages:
    347
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    I think it's logistically undoable.
     
  9. Buckaye

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2014
    Messages:
    1,557
    Likes Received:
    420
    Location:
    Orlando
    I tend to agree... But then again.. 10 years ago I'm not sure I would have thought that the phantom was possible... At least not as it exists today...

    Just knowing how much demand these things would need to fulfill and the crazy airspace issues it could cause... Yeah.. I can't see how they do this without it being really awful in a multitude of ways :)
     
  10. TimmyG94

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2014
    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    1
    I don't think you have much imagination .... either for the future potential of drone technology or the ferocity of Jeff Bezos' grand ideas.

    Too many people have this "all or nothing" idea about the viability of commercial drone delivery. They act like every single consumer item under the Sun must be delivered by a battery-powered drone within 10 minutes or it's never going to work. I don't understand how some of you think, if this is how you view the future of drones.

    To me, commercial drone delivery is simply a matter of WHEN, not if. Once it starts it will take many, many small baby steps instead of giant paradigm leaps like many of you are thinking. There's nothing in my mind that tells me a small prescription bottle weighing 6 oz. can't be delivered by drone to a customer 3 miles away from the pharmacy, and do it in reliable consistent fashion using GPS-guided autonomous flight.

    It baffles me why people think the entire commercial drone industry will fail simply because a Phantom can't deliver a case of beer to some guy who lives 20 miles from the store. ;)
     
  11. Buckaye

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2014
    Messages:
    1,557
    Likes Received:
    420
    Location:
    Orlando
    Woah! BEER delivery? We must make this happen!!!!!
     
  12. syotr

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2013
    Messages:
    896
    Likes Received:
    134
    There are lots of reasons that this will be a challenge.
    It will require a large and expensive copter to carry a five pound package for any distance and return.
    The copter will have to avoid all sorts of obstacles, meaning that it will likely require a full time operator with FPV which will be expensive and limit the distance.
    There will be lots of these in the air leaving and returning from the Amazon warehouse. Managing the traffic will be difficult.
    What happens when the copter reaches its destination? Does it land or drop the package from the air?
    Landing brings all sorts of risks for children or pets.
    What if the person receiving the package is not there? Do you drop it in the yard? A drone can't place it on the porch.
    No matter how reliable you make these, the huge quantity of deliveries will eventually mean an accident.
    If you drop one of these large copters on the freeway in fast moving traffic or into a crowd of people, the lawsuits that follow would put you out of business.
    I have always assumed that Amazon was just suggesting this as a publicity stunt. They certainly have gotten a lot of air time from it.
     
  13. Meta4

    Meta4 Moderator
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2014
    Messages:
    7,731
    Likes Received:
    3,450
    Apart from FAA paralysis that plagues civil use in USA, the obstacles are huge and nowhere near manageable with any technology we can yet imagine. Here are just a few problems for them to deal with.
    Trees, buildings, terrain, powerlines?
    Where does the drone deliver the goods?
    How to ensure the customer gets the goods?
    How to ensure no detrimental impacts upon humans?
    How about dense urban environments, multi-storey buildings?
    How about weather - rain and wind?
    Battery life? - big multicopters have a lot less endurance than a Phantom.
    Distance - how many warehouses would Amazon need per city to give coverage.
    How to ensure drones come back and aren't stolen
     
  14. TimmyG94

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2014
    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    1
    Did you read anything in my post about Amazon Locker? A lot of your questions are easily answered by this already-existing method of package delivery. Drones could easily be incorporated into it's overall strategy of providing reliable and secure dropoff location for items. In essence, a private citizen with a large open yard could become a "sub-contractor" for Amazon and install an Amazon Locker on their property where drone-delivered items are stored until picked up by customers. I'd glady drive a couple miles down the road to pick up my item same day vs. waiting 2 or 3 days for a FedEx truck to deliver it !!

    No way to guarantee a drone will never impact a human. Has FedEx or UPS ever guaranteed their trucks will never hurt a human? Try to use some common sense here.

    Obviously, a drone can't fly in heavy rain or snow, but there are simple engineering mods to enable them to fly in light rain/snow/wind. Like I already said, this is not a "zero sum" game when it comes to drones.

    Battery life will be an issue, but who says commercial drones have to be electric powered? Why not use nitro for heavier items and/or longer flight times? Yeah they are noisy, but there could be provisions made for an Amazon Drone to take off from a warehouse and land at a 7-Eleven with hardly anyone caring about noise since it's already an urban environment. Nitro-powered quads sound like lawn mowers and God knows I already hear plenty of them in the summer!

    No way to guarantee that every drone will always make it back to the warehouse. A large retailer like Amazon can absorb the cost of the occasional lost or stolen drone. There again, my idea about private citizens signing up to be "dropoff stations" will eliminate a lot of problems with drones getting stolen or vandalized because few people will be brave enough to venture onto someone else's property to bust up a drone. Plus, shooting down a drone is already a felony and it's pretty hard to do when that bird is buzzing 300 ft. high over your property at 60 MPH! Smaller retailers will have to lease their drones from a service company that will provide insurance, etc. This is exactly how FedEx and UPS operates --- they can't guarantee their trucks and planes will always work 100% of the time so they buy fleet insurance, set up 24/7 maintenance contracts with 3rd party companies, etc. Drones will operate the exact same way.

    Now do you see how easily drones can be incorporated into the future world of consumer product delivery? :p
     
  15. ianwood

    ianwood Taco Wrangler
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2014
    Messages:
    4,916
    Likes Received:
    1,792
    Location:
    Lost Angeles
    Fact 1: Amazon Prime Now offers 1 hour delivery for over 25,000 items in NYC.
    Fact 2: There are cars that drive themselves.

    Local distribution centers and advanced computer vision will make drone deliveries a reality sooner than later.
     
  16. justin00

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2014
    Messages:
    1,143
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Australia
    LOL I can't believe you made that comparison and then said "try to use some common sense here"

    Anyways sure they might start deliving to a small number of people in certain area's, like a very small number.. but I don't think they will be doing it mainstream for atleast 10 years.. and even then...

    You mention insurance, any insurance company would have to be mad.... Just wait until there is 1 accident involving a kid or something and it will cost $15,000 to deliver your $7 book :]

    Your ideas are great; however they are not really viable in the real world.
     
  17. Narrator

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2014
    Messages:
    347
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    Apart from traffic, theft, weather, endurance, weight, obstacles and other issues with the flight, It means an operator will set and monitor each flight. If they manage to increase the endurance, they still have an issue with the costs/benefits equation, especially the cost of the pilots.

    A truck can deliver to, say, 4 destinations in an hour, in an area of say 2 miles by 2 miles, and carry far more than 5 pounds with each delivery. Let's say they average 10 pounds per delivery. That's 40 pounds per hour delivered, in 4 sq mi. A drone would not be able to cover as much area - you would need one drone per square mile. So you would need 4 drones and 4 pilots to cover the same area as 1 truck and 1 driver, and only delivering half the weight.
     
  18. Narrator

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2014
    Messages:
    347
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    Oh and I just thought of perhaps the biggest hurdle.

    Batteries.

    Endurance batteries require proper charging, to maintain reliability, not rapid charging. You would need at least 6 batteries per copter, and you would need to let them cool before recharging.
     
  19. Khudson7

    Khudson7 Guest

    It appears to me, that some of the arguments seem to negate that this is viable based on present day technology. But things are changing and improving constantly. Heck it won't be long before we have driverless cars. The idea of a pre-programmed flight with sensors to guide and avoid, (ground station?). My bet is it won't be that long before we all are looking back to todays' technology and laughing at how old it was...
    I think Jeff is on to something and wants to be ahead of the curve when the technology catches up...IMHO
     
  20. Fyod

    Joined:
    May 21, 2014
    Messages:
    684
    Likes Received:
    61
    Location:
    Central EU
    ...and then there's bicycles.
    Not reliant on weather, fast, no qualification, no investment in equipment.

    Even if the delivery idea worked, imagine if 20% of your local places offered it. There would be drones everywhere.
    I am very skeptical of the idea. Not all ideas can be used in the real world due to unpredictable events.
    Amazon has the money to fail though and maybe its just a publicity stunt.

    The pills are a very bad example by the way. How would a drone "hand over" prescription drugs for example? They can't be given to anyone other than the person perscribed to and you can't just drop them somewhere where children and pets can get to them.