At first it looked like a promotional prank for Cyber Monday when well known japester Jeff Bezos appeared on the CBS TV show 60 Minutes to reveal that Amazon is planning to start deliveries by drone.
But on closer inspection, it looks like there might be a horrible glimmer of truth and we could well face the prospect of squadrons of Amazon drones swooping over suburbia. If only Hitchcock were alive, I’m sure he would see the potential for a remake of The Birds.
But Amazon won’t be able to start drone deliveries before 2015 at the earliest as that’s when the Federal Aviation Authority is planning to release its first set of regulation for commercial drones.
I was initially baffled as to why, apart from the novelty value, anyone would want to receive a drone delivery. Surely if you need a book that fast you could just download it?
Drones will slash delivery costs
Then I took a look at the economics. A small commercial drone can cost just a couple of thousand dollars and could slash delivery costs for a wide range of businesses so we could see drones serving up pizza.
Amazon wouldn’t be the first to use delivery by drone. In Australia, where there are no regulations on the use of commercial drones, textbook specialist Zookal claims to be setting up drone delivery in Sydney.
The firm, which is a recent start-up offering textbook sales, rentals and buyback, says the UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) will slash delivery costs by up to 90% and cut delivery times from days to minutes.
Zookal claims to have two drones already which it is testing and has ordered another four. The delivery deal includes sending the drone to an outdoor area specified by GPS where the desperate buyer can collect the textbook.
The favoured drones for commercial delivery in general seem to be four-rotor or eight-rotor helicopters known as quadcopters or octocoptors, which can fly at around 300ft and carry a load of up to 6.5 pounds (3Kg), which is quite a hefty book.
Drone deliveries have also been spotted in China, where there is no regulation on commercial use of UAVs.