Could Amazon successfully ship packages by drone?

Amazon is considering using drones to ship packages quickly.

Amazon has always worked to bring customers their packages as soon as possible. Members of the Amazon Prime service can reap the benefits of free, two-day shipping, and the company is even pioneering same-day shipping services for those who cannot wait that long.

It's hard to identify a downside with those services, but Amazon has already thought of one: they rely on trucks. And in the future, if recent reports are to be believed, the online retail giant wants to ship packages by air—specifically by drone.

Most Americans are familiar with drones—or "unmanned aerial vehicles—in a military context. In the past several years, the United States. has used these remote devices to seek out and, at a given time, kill suspected terrorists around the world. But it seems that this controversial technology is quickly being adopted for civilian use, and Amazon is one of the latest companies to take an interest

In a recent announcement, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos suggested that drones could be used to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less. But could it work? A recent article on Air Cargo World notes that many experts remain skeptical.

"I think we need to introduce a bit of cynicism here," Brandon Fried, executive director of the U.S. Airforwarders Association, told the news source. "I think that the drone idea was advanced to generate some buzz about Amazon's reputation, more than it was probably to inform the public that drone deliveries are a possibility in the near-term." 

He added that Amazon would still need permission from the Federal Aviation Administration for this project, which would not come easily.

"There are enormous technical, logistical, safety, regulatory issues that have to be dealt with," he said. "And as an example, I can't imagine the FAA just letting something like this happen to them in shorter than a five-year timeframe." 

The agency approves such systems case-by-case, and is still working on finalizing rules for small commercial drones. The first rule for such aircraft is supposed to be issued in 2014, though it should be noted that the agency has already missed some of its own deadlines for related rules.

Amazon, for its part, told the news source that it hopes the rules will be ready by 2015.

It is still unclear if Amazon could ever ship items reliably via drones. The technology is still new enough that there could be problems resulting in damaged goods. At this point, it is still safest to ship items in the traditional manner while using proof of condition services like CargoSnapshot.

Posted in Transportation/Logistics

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