Will Amazon deliver packages via drone? (+video)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says the company is currently testing deliveries via drone. However, the plan has a few roadblocks such as safety issues and approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

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    A Prime Air vehicle carries a package during an Amazon test of a drone delivery system. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says he hopes to have a program in which Amazon delivers packages via drone up and running within five years. Could it happen?
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A few years from now, your Amazon items might be delivered within 30 minutes of placing your order – by drone.

Amazon is currently working on testing deliveries by drone through a service called Prime Air, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told CBS’s Charlie Rose on “60 Minutes” Sunday.

Calling himself an optimist, Bezos said he hopes to have Prime Air up and running within five years.

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In a demo video showed on “60 Minutes,” small unmanned aircrafts dubbed octocopters would use claws to pick up packages from distribution centers, deposit them in small yellow buckets, then fly to customers homes, where packages could be left on front lawns. The goal, according to Bezos, would be to deliver packages weighing up to 5 pounds within 30 minutes of placing an order within a 10-mile-radius of any Amazon fulfillment center. This would cover some 86 percent of the company’s deliveries, according to Bezos.

“One day Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today,” Amazon said in a statement about Prime Air.

But obstacles remain, including cost, noise, and safety issues, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out, as well as obtaining approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, which has not yet approved such use.

“I don’t want anybody to think this is just around the corner,” Bezos told “60 Minutes.” “This is all an R&D project.”

Still, Amazon has already contacted the FAA about this endeavor and is likely to clear roadblocks. That’s because “this is precisely the kind of application Congress had in mind in 2012 when it ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to open the sky to commercial drones,” as the Washington Post noted.

And though Amazon is known for pioneering innovative and ambitious projects, this isn’t the first such effort to use drones for book and other online deliveries. Two months ago, the Monitor reported on a textbook rental company in Australia that is launching the world’s first book drone. Drone Flirtey will fly Zookal textbook rentals to customers within minutes, which can be tracked on a smartphone using Google maps.   

Drones are also being tested for other uses, from delivering life-saving materials to hospitals to delivering pizzas to hungry customers.

Books, not bombs? The future is looking bright for unmanned drones.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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