Technology, rules keep Amazon drone delivery in hangar, for now

Mon Dec 2, 2013 6:55pm EST
 
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By Bill Rigby

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos made a splash on Sunday with his radical plan to deliver goods to millions of its customers' doors by using a fleet of unmanned drones, but the bold vision is not likely to become a reality this decade.

By Bezos' own admission, the technology that would enable electric-powered 'octocopters' to fly to pre-programmed addresses unaided by humans is still early in development, and the United States is not likely to establish rules for civilian unmanned aircraft systems until 2015 at the earliest.

On top of that, the idea faces privacy concerns and was derided by some as merely a publicity stunt.

"I know this looks like science fiction. It's not," Bezos told Charlie Rose on CBS News' "60 Minutes" show on Sunday night, demonstrating video of a buzzing, toy-sized chopper delicately dropping a small package on a customer's patio.

The piece was aired on the eve of "Cyber Monday," one of the busiest online shopping days of the year when it helps Amazon to be on the minds of customers.

Dubbed "Prime Air" by Amazon, the vehicles could be used to deliver packages up to 5 lbs (2.3 kg) in less than 30 minutes within a 10-mile (16-km) radius of Amazon's so-called fulfillment centers, said Bezos.

"This is still years away... I don't want anyone to think this is just around the corner," said Bezos on "60 Minutes," acknowledging that the technology needs years of work, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration won't likely have rules on unmanned vehicles until 2015 at the earliest.

But Bezos - renowned for his patience on long-term projects - said he was optimistic on making it a reality sooner rather than later.   Continued...

 
An Amazon PrimeAir drone is shown in this publicity photo released to Reuters on December 2, 2013. REUTERS/Amazon.com/Handout via Reuters