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Amazon Contemplates Drones for Last Mile Delivery: Implications for Geospatial Industry

Tuesday, December 3rd 2013
By Adena Schutzberg

There was a lot of "Gee whiz!" and corny jokes about Sunday night's announcement from Amazon that the retailer is considering using drone to deliver packages to its customers' doorsteps. CEO Jeff Bezos in an interview on 60 Minutes described drone delivery within 30 minutes of order could happen within the next five years. The company statement was a bit more aggressive, expecting implementation within two years. (Video after the break.) The giggles about shooting down a drone for free stuff, or the issues of drones colliding or delivering to the wrong address have already popped up, not to mention the always timely concern about privacy.

The buzz certainly helped put Amazon's name on the lips of those about to make Cyber Monday purchases. But what are the potential implications and benefits for us in geospatial industry, if in fact, Jeff Bezos vision comes to pass?

Short Term

  • Bezos announcement may help a cynical world change its feelings of rage and fear toward UAS to something more positive. Previous "jokes" about pizza or burrito delivery were just silly; Bezos has already changed our feelings about online shopping and customer service.
  • The discussion since Sunday has already raised citizen knowledge about how the craft fly, the methods of piloting and the requirements of the FAA.

Long Term

  • Delivery could help gather even more accurate address locations for Amazon to use and/or sell.
  • Amazon and other retailers may need to rethink the location their distribution centers for drone friendly delivery
  • The last mile delivery by drone could be integrated into a multi-modal system. Perhaps it will make sense to drive a truck to the designated drone launch area for a specific part of a city
  • Amazon will gather a lot of data on the economics, safety, efficiency, theft of this solution.
  • Drones might work indoors within a warehouse to pick up and directly deliver packages to nearby locations. 
  • Drones could become part of the Integrated RFID inventory control solutions of retailers.


Joe Francica contributed to this analysis.

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