Amazon’s announcement that it will begin using drones to deliver to some customers in the US within a matter of months demonstrates that drone technology is becoming a practical part of the real world, rather than just a gimmick.

This is according to Sean Durkin, head of enterprise, UK & Ireland at OpenText, who argued that the news, which was announced at Amazon’s Re:Mars conference in Las Vegas, showed the technology was attracting growing support.

“This latest announcement from Amazon – highlighting the company’s plans to deliver by drone within months – is clear proof that this technology is gaining momentum in society,” he said.

Amazon delivery drone project takes off

Amazon first announced its drone delivery plans in 2013, when CEO Jeff Bezos announced the plans for Amazon Prime Air during an interview with 60 Minutes. The company has since undertaken testing of a prototype , with the first successful drone delivery being made in Cambridge, the UK, in 2016.

However, this week’s announcement is a significant step for the company, including the unveiling of an entirely new drone design that executive Jeff Wilke said had been engineered to minimise noise – a key concern for delivery drones.

Featuring a tilting design, the drone is capable of six degrees of freedom, compared to the usual four enjoyed by conventional quadcopters. It is also capable of identifying obstacles including dogs, people and clotheslines, making it suitable for landing in the gardens of customers.

Designed to carry packages weighing up to 2.3kg over a distance of 15 miles, the drone will begin making deliveries in some parts of the US within a few months, and has been issued a one-year permit by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) for the purpose.

“Drones have the potential to offer a phenomenally smooth customer experience”

While drone delivery technology remains in its infancy, Amazon’s plans show it is keen to being using it within regular operations as quickly as possible – a move that is likely to be welcomed by consumers.

“New delivery initiatives, like using drones, that tap into innovative technology, such as AI, automation and IOT, will enable companies to deliver the fastest and most friction-free customer experience possible. More than that, they will help brands to drive revenue, better provide for their customers and increase customer loyalty,” said Durkin.

“Today’s digital generation are used to streamlined, instant services. Brands – such  as Amazon – are increasingly recognising that consumers have a preference for fast and flexible delivery options and that drones could provide a way to meet these expectations.

“Drones have the potential to offer a phenomenally smooth customer experience – going one step further than some of the more ‘gimmicky’ customer experience concepts which don’t necessarily add real value.”

Limits on drone delivery technology?

However, while Amazon is attempting to forge ahead with its delivery drone plans, many remain sceptical about the potential of the technology.

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Paul Clarke, CTO of grocery giant Ocado, for example, recently told Verdict that delivery drones were a long way from being used by the company.

“I’m not ruling out delivery, I’m just saying it’s a way to go before the technology and everything else is there,” he said.

“Do I think 35kg of groceries, a typical Ocado order, might fly over your head any time soon? No, because there’s significant safety and legislative challenges to overcome.

“Drone technology and battery technology isn’t there yet. All sorts of supporting infrastructure has got to be built, like automated air traffic control systems, air traffic control corridors for drones.”


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