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What Happened to Amazon Drone Delivery?

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Back in 2013, Jeff Bezos predicted that by 2018, Amazon would be delivering packages to people’s doorsteps in a bold new way: using drones. Well 2018 has all but come and gone, and I for one haven’t gotten my Prime packages delivered via drone, so what happened?

It turns out even with Amazon’s near-trillion-dollar valuation can’t overcome the many regulatory hurdles required to operate a delivery system to this degree. Back when Bezos made this prediction, people were quick to imagine a world where drones emblazoned with the Amazon logo zoomed through the air, carrying people’s precious ordered goods. While a neat idea, it also brought with it a number of serious concerns, mainly being that of privacy and sheer logistical complications.

Not only that, the technology required to operate a drone delivery system isn’t quite there yet. Drones have fairly short battery life as it is, making it difficult to pull off a large number of deliveries.  Drone usage has certainly grown in the last decade, but within industries outside the retail sector, and without much direct interaction with consumers. By 2022, the U.S. government estimates that more than 450,000 commercial drones will be in operation, up from the current 110,000.

Nevertheless, Amazon is pushing forward with their drone delivery system, according to Amazon spokeswoman Kristen Kish says “We are committed to making our goal of delivering packages by drones in 30 minutes or less a reality.” Amazon currently has drone development centers in five countries, so it seems like they haven’t given up on a drone delivery-filled future.

Customers who live close to an Amazon fulfillment center will most likely be the first to benefit for its drone deliveries. For those who live in rural areas with plenty of room, drone delivery will be easy to task to manage, but for those living in crowded urban centers, delivery poses a greater degree of difficulty. One potential solution being explored by Amazon is using parachutes to help drones accurately drop packages in densely populated urban areas.

Amazon isn’t alone in developing commercial drone delivery systems. Several private companies are even exploring using drone delivery to help deliver emergency supplies to areas affected by natural disasters. The government is getting behind the idea drone delivery too, with President Trump authorizing a three-year program back in May meant to invigorate research and development in drone delivery and its underlying technology. While we don’t have drone delivery yet, experts estimated that Amazon, along with other major private companies, could be using drones by 2020.

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