Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Amazon Drone: Stunt or service?
Is Amazon's 60 Minutes revelation serious, or just a publicity ploy?
Computerworld - Editor's note: This column has been edited to provide the correct title of DJI Innovations' Colin Guinn.
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the town Not a creature was stirring, not e'en UPS brown. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that Amazon Drones soon would be there.
Seriously, Jeff Bezos? Do you really think that, God and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration willing, Amazon will be delivering five-pound packages from your warehouses to customers' doors by the holiday season of 2015?
Or did you just realize what a great PR stunt it would be to have Amazon Prime Air octocopters buzzing about on a national TV news show?
I'm betting on the latter, but I'm not ruling out the former.
After all, it's not like drone technology is as near to science fiction as Google Robot is. Even leaving aside the military use of drones, drones have been around for years.
More to the point, the FAA is experimenting with commercial drones. Indeed, the FAA has already approved two commercial drones: Boeing's Insitu ScanEagle and AeroVironment's Puma. These are both surveillance drones. You can expect police departments and search-and-rescue groups to be using them soon.
With six-figure price tags, these are a long, long way from the upgraded toy octocopters that Amazon will be using. Still, both the technology and the legal framework are there for drones to start deliveries sometime in the next few years.
Now, there are questions about how practical this could be. Leaving aside the nuisance factor of drones buzzing about your neighborhood like so many mosquitoes in a swamp on a sultry summer evening, some experts just don't see the idea as being practical.
Colin Guinn, CEO of DJI-North America, the U.S. arm of DJI Innovations, which makes unmanned aerial cinematography systems for commercial and recreational use, said that Amazon Prime Air's unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) might carry a five-pound payload for, at most about a 10-mile radius from Amazon's distribution centers. Since these centers tend to be out in the country, instead of in the city, the question is how many customers could Amazon really reach with this system?
I don't see that as a real problem. True, Amazon can't afford to put its huge warehouses near every major city. But the company can certainly afford to buy smaller storage space -- perhaps former Books-a-Millions and Barnes & Noble stores -- and convert them into mini-warehouse/drone airports. Then, on the Amazon website simply make Prime Air an option for only high-demand items in certain areas and, ta-da, problem solved.
More by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Here comes the black market for XP patches
- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: What's the best smartphone? That's the wrong question.
- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Office for iPad: Big deal, or big yawn?
- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Who needs operating systems anymore? Not you.
- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Windows 7 lives!
- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: You can keep using XP for another year, but do you really want to?
- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Told you so! Microsoft backs off on Metro
- Steven J. Vaughan Nichols: Windows 9 in 2015: Desperation isn't pretty
- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Lessons for IT from Windows 8/Metro
- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: The Windows killer: Chromebook
- Silicon Valley's 19 Coolest Places to Work
- Is Windows 8 Development Worth the Trouble?
- 8 Books Every IT Leader Should Read This Year
- 10 Hot Hadoop Startups to Watch
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- Logicalis eBook: SAP HANA: The Need for Speed Without timely business insights, organizations today can suffer logistical, manufacturing, and even financial disaster in a matter of minutes
- Neustar 2014 DDoS Attacks and Impact Report For the third consecutive year, Neustar surveyed hundreds of companies on distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. The survey reveals evidence that the...
- Acxiom Case Study This case study, which focuses on Acxiom, explores how the company was able to secure employee data, reduce migration costs and boost productivity...
- Windows® XP Migration: Protect and Secure Critical Data With the end of the Microsoft Windows XP operating system's lifecycle on April 8, 2014, businesses are faced with the decision to migrate...
- Top 4 Digital Signage Fails Join RMG Networks for a look at four of the most common reasons digital signage fails in corporate businesses. Learn about strategies to...
- Building Tomorrow's Infrastructure Listen to this podcast to discover how Crider Foods worked with PC Connection to update their IT infrastructure, while maintaining compliance and control. All E-business White Papers | Webcasts