Game of Drones: A Dance With A Retail Dragon

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It doesn’t matter what part of the kingdom you live in, Amazon is about to change the game in retail delivery…but is it a good thing?

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All puns and jokes aside, Amazon’s announcement of Prime Air aims to change the way everyone, I repeat, EVERYONE will approach buying and receiving goods in the next ten years.

In case you missed Amazon’s tell-all on 60 Minutes this past Sunday night, everyone’s favorite online retailer announced plans to deploy delivery drones in the next few years as part of an initiative to get you stuff faster. Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, is customer-driven, and has proven time and time again that he will do whatever it takes to get you more product as quickly as he can get it to you.

Bezos said in the 60 Minutes piece that Amazon Prime Air “can do half-hour delivery and carry objects we think up to five pounds, which covers 86% of the items we cover.” Although FAA regulations are basically pushing this service to 2015, Bezos says the drones can make deliveries up to 10 miles away from any one of Amazon’s 96 current fulfillment centers.

Asked about a full scale rollout, Bezos says, “It will certainly just be a matter of years.”

While there are certainly numerous hurdles to getting this service up and running, and while not outright saying so, Bezos’ announcement of Prime Air means one thing: Amazon is about to change the way people all over the world buy anything. A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G.

No matter how crazy this all sounds, or  what you think about drones or the use of drones inside the borders of the United States, this announcement means one thing: lots more jobs. At the very least, it seems that Amazon will have to increase their number of fulfillment centers, which is also good for consumers. Amazon builds more hubs, hire more people – thousands of people – and comes out looking like a great American hero. You think you already get your purchases now relatively quickly? Wait until there are two or three fulfillment centers nearer to you. These drones also won’t fly themselves; not with the overall game plan being to get you to buy more stuff because you can get it quicker. Akin to military drone pilots, it would seem that even with the technology we’ve already seen displayed by Prime Air Amazon will have to employ pilots tasked specifically to enter the GPS coordinates and actually pilot the drone to wherever you are. New fulfillment centers, new drone pilots, new delivery experts which means new jobs.

We actually should have seen something of this magnitude coming. If you live in the Seattle or Los Angeles area you’ve probably at least visited AmazonFresh, the quick and online way of….buying groceries?! Yes, groceries. Since the expansion of the Los Angeles area, it seems that Amazon has set out to change the game we buy and receive anything. Seattle, Amazon’s hometown, has been running the AmazonFresh program for almost seven years now, and the company felt so good about the status of the program, and their ability to deliver, that they quietly expanded to Los Angeles, essentially overnight. Amazon’s goal is to almost eliminate your need to shop and receive goods anywhere.

But will it work?

Let’s be honest: Prime Air seems to be straight out of the R&D department of Wayne Enterprises, not an online retailer. Really, Amazon has an R&D department?! In April of 2011, Bezos himself wrote a tech article for Business Insider entitled Why I, Jeff Bezos, Keep Spending Billions On Amazon R&D. After posting subpar market numbers, and coming in way below profit expectations, Bezos defends his reasoning for shelling out 3 billion dollars for his research and development. That was in 2011.

Yes, there seem to be some apparent “issues” that could occur from drone delivery: weather, theft, and intentional damage and vandalism all strike a chord here. What happens if someone steals that little orange plastic tub before you’ve had the chance to find it? What happens when drones are intentionally targeted for their cargo? How costly will these drones be to replace if serious damage occurs? All of these questions are still incredibly valid, however, doesn’t the world’s largest online retailer have plenty of time to figure all of this out?

Thanks in part to government regulations, the answer is yes.

So, will it work? The answer to that is also yes. Amazon has continually broken the mold in how we purchase and receive goods. Does it open a debate about the ethics of drone flight inside the United States? No. Should you be worried about a drone flying to your home or apartment to deliver your much needed item in 30 minutes or less? The answer again is no.

In a world of ever-expanding technology, it’s only natural for us to devise ways of purchasing and receiving goods more quickly and efficiently.

And if you don’t like drone-based delivery? There’s always UPS or FedEx.

About author

Josh Steen

Josh Steen is the founder of the JustUs Geeks, and is the host of the JustUs Geeks Podcast. Josh is also a dad, husband, and graphic designer. He geeks out over sports, video games, music, and Transformers. Have an idea for a story or podcast topic? Let him know via social media or email!

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