Amazon Drone Deliveries – Is This The Future of Ecommerce?

3 Minutes
Mark Gregory

Doing a bit of ecommerce shopping on your tablet, you place an order online for a few new t-shirts and some gym wear. You log off and carry on with your day, a few hours later you receive a text or email to advise that your order is just landing on the street outside. You head outside and there is your order, being delivered by a drone…. sound like something futuristic? Well if Amazon have their way you could be receiving your ecommerce orders this way in the not too distant future!

News reports today have been circulating regarding Amazon, the goliath of an online retailer, seeking to introduce deliveries via drones and asking for a separate airspace zone reserved for commercial drone flights.

The suggested zone would enable the unmanned vehicles to fly below normal aeroplanes, probably at a height of just 200 to 400 feet (61m to 122m).  This isn’t however the first time this idea has been explored, both Google and the Chinese internet giant Alibaba have carried out private drone trials as have other retailers.

Whilst these internet giants view drone delivery as the future there are a number of regulatory hurdles to be negotiated before it could become a reality. “Drones have been around for a long time when it comes to non-commercial sectors. But there are in fact all kinds of commercial uses for drones with parcel deliveries being just one of them” Andrew Milroy, technology analyst with consultancy Frost & Sullivan was quoted as saying.

As an ecommerce digital agency this story was of particular interest to us. Online retail is such a fast moving sector with the large retailers constantly striving to make improvements to their service. We have seen the next day delivery on orders up until 10pm through Next, even same day deliveries from some high street chains. The consumers want their products as fast as possible and it seems that the businesses capable of providing this are winning the race. Amazon are already a giant in the ecommerce world, with Amazon Prime linking next day deliveries with on demand viewing services. Customers are paying for a service so where will they go to shop when they need something? That’s right, back to Amazon – they’ve already paid for next day delivery.

At a recent NASA convention in California, Amazon put forward it’s proposition and clarified that the use of airspace was essential if the potential of small unmanned aircraft systems in civil airspace is to be realised. According to the Amazon draft plan, a separate civil airspace would be created somewhere below 500ft. This airspace would then enable drones to fly safely without encroaching on civilian or military plane airspace. The same proposed plan also suggests allocated airspace somewhere under 200ft specifically for low-speed localised drone flights such as for surveying, filming and private interest purposes.

The higher area, between 200ft and 400ft, would then be reserved as a “high-speed transit space”, for drones such as the ones Amazon is hoping to commission for it’s drone delivery services. Obviously for safety purposes a no-fly zone between 400ft and 500ft would have to be implemented as a buffer for all civilian, cargo and military aeroplanes that will be flying in the air space above the 500ft mark.

It’s a fascinating concept and we can only see this becoming a reality as our needs and demands as consumers continue to go into overdrive. We want things and we want them now, so Amazon aim to give it to us and continue their growth as the world’s leading ecommerce business.