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Amazon Prime Air: Instant Free Shipping With Delivery Drones

Krzysztof is a lifelong future tech junkie investigating the latest stories from companies like Apple, Samsung, Google, and Amazon.

How Amazon Prime Air Works

Amazon's Prime Air is Amazon's master plan to produce fast, free shipping for everyone via drone delivery.

Think of it as a pizza delivery service for stuff.

The main objective of Prime Air is to ensure rapid distribution of its Amazon products by reducing delivery times to 30 minutes or less.

If successful, it could revolutionize the e-commerce market and change consumerism as we know it.

  • Prime Air has been in the works since late 2013, but their idea hasn't gotten off the ground yet mostly to legal concerns.

However there are signs that this futuristic style of delivery could come to fruition in the early 2020's.

The FAA has gradually lessened the rules and regulations for unnamed aircraft systems such as drones over the past few years, however, they haven't granted Amazon permission to test their drone concepts in public.

Other countries like the UK have seen more lenient restrictions, which is why Amazon is predominately testing their drone service overseas.

A few years ago Amazon released a Amazon Prime Air video that gave the public a conceptualized view of drone deliveries with newer versions beyond that, but there remain a multitude of challenges before we see wide scale deployment.

Limiting Drone Pollution

There have been many stories that highlighted issues of a drone delivery system, but I believe most of them can be overcome.

One of the biggest challenges of drones flying through the air will be the amount of drones that'll cover the skies.

Amazon delivers millions of deliveries on a monthly basis, so can you imagine millions of delivery drones running rampant from above; it would be be a disaster.

So how can we prevent drone overpopulation?

There are a few steps companies can take including:

  • Setting limits to when and where deliveries can occur
  • Creating regulations on package weight and size
  • Organized delivery schedules
  • Making it available to select individuals
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There's no doubt that companies like Amazon will make sure only certain members can get these types of delivery methods.

As far as regulations go, Amazon plans to deliver items that are 5 lbs. or less, which means they can pack more items into one delivery drone and avoid heavier loads.

Deliver schedules will have to be organized and I suspect there'll be cutoff times when deliveries can be made.

I suspect that like other Amazon services such as Amazon Fresh that they'll raise Prime subscription fees to use Prime Air. If you're a Prime member, then you'll have the added option of getting Air but at a great cost.

Another way to lessen drone pollution would be to utilize autonomous vehicles to make more deliveries. The more AV's on the road, the less there'd be a need for drone armies.

Safety Regulations & Liability

If there are thousands of flying machines in the air, then there are bound to be hiccups.

Probably the greatest dangers for the devices will be power lines, buildings, and weather conditions. There's also the possibility of human/animal injury due to the drones themselves.

So we have to ask ourselves, who will be liable for damages?

If Amazon wants to embrace a drone delivery system, then they'll have to accept the risks and pay for most damages. Unless there's a deliberate attack aimed toward the devices, then it should be Amazon's responsibility.

  • Don't expect people to pay for damaged items.

Amazon will have to make sure their drones are advanced enough so they won't have to deal with inquires often.

Luckily for them, there's still plenty of testing that'll be done. The more successful the testing process goes, the more likely the program will be fired up.

Most of the 2010's have been dedicated to testing because the first generation of delivery drones can't act like they're in beta mode.

Theft and Privacy Issues

Oh look free stuff!

What do you think thieves and criminals will think if there are thousands of valuable products floating above them?

  • Theft is the number one reason people wouldn't want a drone delivery service.

But will theft be the biggest problem for Amazon's Prime Air service?

Maybe but I trust Amazon to create powerful, hyper secure drones that will make theft difficult. A strong design that's carefully monitored will deter most common criminals from stealing what's inside.

If the drone is so powerful that it won't shatter/open up unless it's blown up, then it's safe to say theft will be minimal. Also if drone monitoring is perfected, then conspicuous activity will quickly end.

However there's no guarantee that Prime Air will be this advanced from the get-go but given Amazon's lucrative history, I wouldn't want to bet against them.

Who Will Receive Prime Air?

Recently Amazon has expanded their fast shipping services with same-day and one day free delivery, and Whole Foods/Prime Now promise even faster delivery times

Prime Now is an Amazon product that offers fast shipping times for tens of thousands of items. It's only available for select cities in the United States & parts of Europe.

A lot of places still don't have same-day delivery let alone 1-2 hour shipping rates, but both services will gradually expand and continue to gain prominence.

So how would Prime Air build on this concept?

  • If Amazon's drone service is successful, then it would eliminate a lot of problems with Prime Now.

Drones have the potential to reach anyone and anywhere, which would increase Amazon's capital and global reach.

Remote locations could receive products they ordinarily wouldn't because of problems like poor infrastructure, lack of access, or dangerous weather conditions.

Amazon wouldn't just be helping themselves, they'd be helping millions of people.

Transforming E-Commerce

What would happen if Amazon's Prime Air triumphed?

We would likely see a massive implementation of commercial drone delivery services to retailers like Target & Walmart, which are investing in their own speedy delivery systems; even Uber Eats is getting into the game.

It would also rapidly change the world of consumerism with an even greater shift towards e-commerce and online shopping.

Amazon has been reinventing itself for years, and it wants to compete with huge tech companies like Google. Prime Air could push this juggernaut over the edge and into the future.

If realized, the potential would be enormous. Just think of how incredible it'd be if we could deliver life saving products to third world, isolated countries that need it most.

If the skeptics don't look past the negatives, then they'll never understand what it could mean for everyone.

The Amazon Prime Air drone delivery service could be one of the greatest and most useful solutions we have ever seen.

Let's hope everyone can see that too.

Your Turn!


Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on January 14, 2016:

Thank you for your comment. I wanted to talk about the drone service for a while because I found it incredibly fascinating. It has the potential to be revolutanarily and spin the popularity of drones into something more useful and widespread. The Consumer Electronics Show was full of drone devices, which I"m sure hobbyists loved but I feel most people think it's only somethiing cool to witness and that's it.

I will never underestimate Amazon's powerful to transform the retail market and play a major role in regulations among hobby and commercial drones. My own prediction says that by 2017 we'll see the unveiling of Prime Air after months of trials runs later this year (unless approval gets halted).

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on January 10, 2016:

Your covered this review of Amazon delivery by drone very well, Chris. You covered all the issues, some of which I never even thought about previously... such as theft. But I realize, now that I think about it, that the technology exists that can protect against that too. A drone could capture real time video of anyone attempting to shoot it down.

As for regulation, I'm sure eventually Amazon will convince regulators to section off various levels of altitudes. Lower altitudes for hobbyist, a little higher for commercial drones, and much higher for aircraft. Amazon does have a lot of clout. After all, they were able to convince the US Post Office to deliver Amazon products on Sundays.

By the way, I discovered you via your profile on Periscope, although I know you didn't do any scopes yet. I didn't either.

Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on December 16, 2015:

It would be excellent for remote places and I do believe Amazon would introduce a concept of tracking and monitoring your items prior to delivery so thieves wouldn't be on the prowl. The company wouldn't release this program to the public unless it's certain all consumer issues are addressed, but I'm sure even after launch people would still feel uneasy about their valuables being stolen or lost.

The weather issue could be significant and additional weather trackers would have to be incorporated somehow for the best delivery time table. Hopefully consumers would understand that a package might take an extra hour or two to be delivered than the standard 30 minutes in case bad weather strikes. I don't think they'd want to risk important goods a slightly faster delivery.

Still the drones will have to be dynamic enough to handle a lot of different, unexpected weather conditions, but with rapid advances in technology I don't think it'll take very long for a powerhouse drone to be developed. The stronger and more reliable the drone, the better it can adapt to both theft, obstructions, and weather conditions.

Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on December 16, 2015:

I actually hadn't thought of that but you're absolutely right. I think the issues people are concerned about are vastly overplayed. The business would really boom and agree about the positives of sellers such as yourself. Everything would be faster, easier, and just much better overall.

Nancy Yager from Hamburg, New York on December 12, 2015:

I do not see a problem with thieves, because if the can steal it out of your mailbox, which happens all the time, they can steal it out of a drone. It is probably safer in a drone because if you needed it that fast, you would be looking out for it. As a seller on Amazon, I sure do think it would be amazing for business.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on December 11, 2015:

This is very interesting Chris. technology is moving so fast that anything is possible. I live in a semi-remote area where we only get postal delivery three days per week and some courier services won't deliver or pick up from here, o drones could be the answer. However I worry about the security od items sent this way...there are so many variables that could go wrong. This may be figured out and minimized before delivery drones are introduced however.

I am wondering what is the range and capabilities that a drone can fly, will they be impervious to weather conditions etc? Thieves could monitor and watch where they land and steal the item if people aren't home when the item is delivered. We do have to try and find ways to utilize new technology wherever we can though.

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