Chipotle and Domino’s have already gotten into the act, but the era of drone delivery was never going to truly begin until Amazon got started. Last week, they did just that — earlier today, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tweeted out the revelation that Amazon has completed their first drone delivery in Cambridge, England.
Amazon is currently running their drone delivery service, Amazon Prime Air, as a pilot program in Cambridge. The low-key testing grounds are a way for the company to figure out all the foreseen and unforeseen problems involved in drone delivery. The company has a video up showing that first delivery, an Amazon Fire TV unit to Richard B. or Cambridgeshire — just in case you need to know that for Jeopardy in about 20 years.
Per the video, Richard B. is one of two customers currently receiving Amazon Prime Air deliveries, with others who live near Amazon’s shipping center in the UK to be included in the coming months.
The video also gives us a good idea of how Amazon’s drone delivery system will work on a global scale. Because current drones are limited by battery life, Amazon will have to rely on building small-scale fulfillment centers that cover individual cities (or parts of larger cities). The process won’t be totally automated — those fulfillment centers will rely on stockers to pack boxes for deliveries and tech support to make sure nothing goes amiss during deliveries. Once the boxes have been stocked, they’ll be loaded onto a delivery drone, which will be brought outside by an automated track and sent off. The drones have their own sensors and GPS, allowing them to guide themselves to their destinations. The drones will fly low (under 400 feet), which they’ll need to do to clear regulations being set down in countries across the world.
For now, drones can only handle packages weighing five pounds or less. That, combined with the need for many fulfillment centers and the need to meet regulatory frameworks, will limit how widespread Amazon Prime Air will be at the outset. But, make no mistake — the future of delivery just took off.