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Amazon Reveals Surprise on 60 Minutes: Delivery Drones

Amazon is getting a lot of flak these days over treatment of warehouse workers, but you wouldn’t know it if you watched 60 Minutes on Sunday evening. The investigative news show went inside a company warehouse, but with cameras in full sight. After showing off the wonders of Amazon warehouses, the TV program broadcast the company’s CEO revealing his latest invention: delivery drones.

Drones are known mostly these days because of their role in the military – unmanned flying vehicles that make it safer to conduct dangerous or stealth operations. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sees the commercial potential for drones: delivering packages to your doorstep.

On the 60 Minutes TV newsmagazine program Sunday evening, Bezos showed correspondent Charlie Rose a secret R&D project: “octocopter” drones that will literally fly packages directly to your home in 30 minutes.

The Amazon octocopter drones, called Prime Air, can carry items weighing up to 5 pounds, which covers 86% of items Amazon delivers, so it won’t handle everything, Bezos explained. The current generation Octocopter can fly within a 10-mile radius of a fulfillment center.

They run on electric motors, and Bezos called them very green – “it’s better than driving trucks around,” he said. When asked if there was someone sitting in front of a screen flying the drones remotely, Bezos said no, they were autonomous – you give them instructions with GPS coordinates, he explained.

The hardest part is “making sure they don’t land on somebody’s head” and waiting for the FAA, which is set to allow drones to fly alongside planes in U.S. commercial airspace in 2015. It can’t be before 2015, Bezos said, but it could be 4 – 5 years out.

Another high-tech firm is already involved in unmanned vehicles – Google has been developing driverless cars and has been reportedly testing drones for aerial photography for its maps and Google Earth products.

Retailers are in a race for same-day delivery, and Amazon has just taken it to another level.

See more on the Amazon website.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.