The phrase “30 minutes or less” has been around since the halcyon days of pizza delivery. Domino’s Pizza advertised delivery of its pizzas in 30 minutes or it was free, and this guarantee of pizza at your doorstep in a half hour was the pizza chain’s marketing slogan from 1979 to 1993. Now, Amazon is seeking to revive the concept of “30 minutes or less” using modern technology—in this case, drones. Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, Paul Misener, outlined his plans in an interview with Yahoo. “The goals we’ve set for ourselves are: The range has to be over 10 miles. These things will weigh about 55 pounds each, but they’ll be able to deliver parcels that weigh up to 5 pounds,” he said. “Much of what Amazon sells would fall within that 5 pound payload limit.”
Amazon also made a goal of one-day delivery, which is currently facing not only technical and legal challenges, but will also have competition from other logistics companies such as DHL and traditional retailers such as Walmart. Currently, Amazon Prime customers can get delivery in as little as an hour in some places, and Amazon is also branching out into restaurant delivery as well. The Internet of Things is also at play here. Amazon’s Dash Replenishment program will allow printers and washing machines to place their own orders when they run low on supplies.
While it is still unclear how much this service will cost, Misener also took into consideration the different environments people live in. “We have different prototypes we’re working on simultaneously—different kinds of drones for different kinds of delivery circumstances. Our customers in the United States live in hot, dry, dusty areas like Phoenix, but they also live in hot, wet, rainy environments like Orlando, or up in the Colorado Rockies,” he said. “Likewise, obviously, our customers live in a wide variety of buildings. Some live in rural farmhouses, some live in high-rise city skyscrapers, and then everything in between, in suburban and exurban environments. We want to be able to serve all of those customers. And it may take a different kind of a drone to best work in each one,” he continued.
One suggestion involved setting aside a 200 foot high space in the sky for drones to travel in to reduce congestion in the skies. Despite the backing of Amazon, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or NASA have yet to officially endorse Amazon’s ideas, but they have taken Amazon’s proposals into consideration. “I’m hopeful that this will spur discussions about exactly how to get this right,” Misener said. “It’s with a similar goal in mind. We presented this proposal at a NASA conference, and we’re of the same mind. We need to figure out this airspace,” he continued.
When asked whether or not the FAA and Amazon are on the same page, Misener said that amateur drones and commercial drones should at least be given equal treatment. “At the very least, they ought to be treated the same, to give the FAA the same authority to regulate both amateur and commercial drones. Arguably, you would want to regulate the amateurs even more, because they have less training, their drones are less sophisticated, and so forth. So certainly that part of law needs to be clarified, at a minimum.”
While the technological hurdles can be overcome on the end of Amazon and other tech companies seeking to use delivery drones, the regulatory hurdles, despite gaining support from the federal authorities, are still out of the company’s control. However, Misener is optimistic about the chances of “30 minutes or less” becoming a reality again. “Challenges are there, for sure, but once we demonstrate that this is safe, we’ll be able to take it to the regulators and hopefully deploy it for our customers quickly. I’ve seen it. It’s gonna happen. It’s coming.”