EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 348 - December 08, 2013 - ISSN 1528-6703     4 of 6

Skepticism Hovers over Amazon's Plans to Use Delivery Drones

By David A. Utter

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A brief mention of Amazon Prime Air during a segment with company CEO Jeff Bezos on the TV show 60 Minutes had some viewers looking to their calendars to see if April Fools' Day had arrived early. It hadn't, and Amazon apparently is working in earnest on developing a drone package delivery program.

Surprisingly enough, the idea isn't unprecedented. Earlier in 2013, a drone bearing a cake delivery was spotted in Dongguang, in southern China. The drone bore the logo of S.F. Express, a delivery business based in Shenzhen, China.

But Amazon may have more to overcome in the US besides a wait for Federal Aviation Administration rules to permit such a delivery method to get off the ground. Safety concerns will be first in the minds of the public as drones bearing Xbox games and Blu-Ray movies whiz overhead.

AdAge said the perceived danger isn't just to the public. They also wonder if such delivery drones may deal a blow to the mom-and-pop stores that managed to survive the specter of Walmart's ascendency in retail.

Likewise, over at Slate, a basic question about the service comes into play. If the drones are only going to have a delivery range of ten miles, will Amazon Prime Air be limited solely to dense urban population centers?

Slate also said for the near future the only thing the drones are good for is "a shiny distraction from serious inquiry into the company's ambitions and practices." Dan Lyons blogging at Up & to the Right took that contention a step further:

Why is this incredibly tight-lipped company suddenly showing off prototypes? The answer is that these drones were not designed to carry packages, but to give a lift to Amazon's image.

Bezos and Amazon are still reeling from the recent publication of a not entirely flattering book by Businessweek reporter Brad Stone. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon portrays Bezos as a ruthless tyrant and a "penny-pinching ballbuster," as Gawker put it.

As soon as the book came out, Amazon swung into action trying to discredit Stone.

Whether Amazon Prime Air is a cool look into the future of package delivery, or a cynical effort to keep people from being overly concerned about how Amazon treats its warehouse workers and other business aspects, the idea of automated package delivery does seem compelling and plausible enough to be a "when" rather than an "if" scenario.

What do you think of Amazon's plans to use drones to deliver packages? Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.


About the author:

David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. Send your tips to media@davidautter.com and find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.


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