It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…an Amazon drone?

Map of Central America, the Antilles and the Caribbean written with misspellings. It comes from a Spanish school. Published 1969.

Map of Central America, the Antilles and the Caribbean written with misspellings. It comes from a Spanish school. Published 1969.

Amazon is known for trying new things. They were among the first to seize the opportunity afforded by sales tax (or lack thereof) to charge into the online retail market. It became clear Amazon was a dominant player when people began referring to Best Buy and other brick-and-mortar retailers as “Amazon’s showroom.” Amazon has continued to innovate and grow, and there seems to be no sign of slowing in the near future.

Amazon has tested completely new concepts, like it is now doing with AmazonFresh, a grocery delivery service that currently serves Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. It has also seen success with innovating current practices, such as its Amazon Prime service, which offers free 2-day shipping along with other discounts and benefits. However, everything it has done to this point pales in comparison to what founder and CEO Jeff Bezos discussed with 60 Minutes: drone delivery.

That’s right, “Amazon Prime Air” as it is being called, is currently under development and raising as many eyebrows as Amazon hoped it would raise. Because it immediately sparks thoughts of the missile-toting versions used by the armed forces and law enforcement, people are skeptical of the safety and viability of the proposed drones. Fortunately for the concerned, the FAA has not released its rules about unmanned aerial vehicles yet, and Amazon is hoping for them to be favorable for commerce.

From an economic standpoint, the drone service makes a lot of sense for Amazon. The drones could carry packages up to 5 pounds in weight, which comprises about 86% of what Amazon sells. With 30-minute deliveries possible, it could open up an entirely new market for online products. While shipping times have steadily decreased over the years due to heightening efficiency of shipping companies, it is still commonplace to have to wait 7-10 days for standard shipping and expedited shipping is still a 2-3 day wait, unless you can shell out big bucks for overnight delivery. While Amazon Prime Air would by no means be inexpensive, it would trump any land, sea, or air delivery service for shipping time.

The obvious concern remains: What about those drones? Amazon has not given many details about exactly how the drones would operate, but it is not difficult to imagine the dangers and complications that would arise from the drone delivery service. Who is to stop people from shooting down the drones or taking control of them remotely to re-direct them to a different destination? How would they avoid power lines? Could they be hijacked mid-route and a bomb be placed in the package? What happens if the drones cause property damage? Will the footage from their cameras be saved?

Given the rise of the importance of privacy to consumers, Amazon should expect to encounter considerable resistance to the implementation of drone delivery.