Drone delivery: Amazon testing octocopters to deliver purchases in 30 minutes
Published Monday, December 2, 2013 9:15AM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 2, 2013 2:16PM EST
Can't wait for your online purchases to arrive? Well, delivery of your packages may become faster, much faster, thanks to drones that will drop off items in as little as 30 minutes, says online retailer Amazon.com.
Amazon announced that it is currently developing a new delivery system -– called Amazon Prime Air -- that would see packages delivered to customers' doorsteps by unmanned aircrafts.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told "60 Minutes" on Sunday the while the drones -– called "octocopters"— looked like "science fiction," they could be used by Amazon in four to five years.
A video of a recent test flight of the octocopter was posted to Amazon's website. It shows a parcel being placed in a sealed, plastic container and secured onto a small drone. The drone then takes off from the Amazon warehouse, eventually landing on a doorstep. The package is left for the customer and the drone takes off, returning to the warehouse.
Bezos said the octocopters will be able to handle packages that weigh up to five pounds, which covers 86 per cent of Amazon's deliveries.
He said this generation of octocopter will be able to cover a 10-mile (16 kilometre) radius from an Amazon distribution centre.
He added that the drones' motors are electric, providing a greener alternative to delivery trucks. And unlike the drones used by the military, which are operated remotely by a human, these drones would use GPS co-ordinates to guide them to their destination.
Amazon's drones will one day be as "normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today," the company's website says.
Christopher Parsons, a privacy and security consultant from Block G Security, told CTV News Channel that in the future, with the current pace of research and development, drone delivery vehicles will be a "very feasible option."
"What we'll see in five years is going to be very different from what we see right now," he said on Monday afternoon.
Parsons said that one of the biggest roadblocks for the commercial use of drones is the lack of Federal Aviation Administration rules to regulate their use.
"The FAA is tasked with figuring out how exactly commercial UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) can be used in commercial airspace," he said, adding that American regulators are also starting to examine related privacy and security concerns.
Questions regarding the data collected by the drones and access to that data are among the top privacy concerns, Parsons said.
Amazon said it hopes to see FAA rules established as early as 2015 and the Prime Air vehicles in use a few years later.
Amazon says public safety will be a top priority for the delivery drones, and that octocopters will be designed to meet commercial aviation standards.
This is critical for the ultimate success of the project, Parsons said. "As soon as one of these things falls out of the sky… that will be the end of this kind of project," he said.
So while drones could eventually be delivering your new gadget or book, don’t expect it to drop off bulky items.
"It won't work for everything," Bezos said. "We're not going to deliver kayaks or table saws this way."