Delivery by drone: Amazon plans to deliver goods in 30 minutes using octocopters

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If Amazon gets its way, the skies could one day be filled with an army of buzzing drones delivering books, tablets, and a host of other items to customers around the U.S.

During an interview in December 2013 with 60 Minutes’ Charlie Rose, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos took the wraps off a prototype of the company’s ‘Prime Air’ delivery drone, capable of flying purchased items to your doorstep within 30 minutes of ordering – so long as it doesn’t weigh more than five pounds and you live within 10 miles of one of its fulfillment centers, that is.

The founder of the world’s largest e-commerce site told Rose that the proposed delivery system won’t be happening just yet, though added that he can envisage it becoming a delivery option in around four or five years.

“The hardest challenge in making this happen is going to be demonstrating this to the standards of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) that this is a safe thing to do,” Bezos explained to Rose.

A video (below) released this week shows us exactly how the new delivery method will work. The whole process is covered in the video, starting with a fulfillment center worker putting a bought item inside a small yellow box. After trundling along a conveyor belt, the box automatically attaches to the Prime Air octocopter. The whole lot then flies off to the customer, who’s presumably got their face glued to the window not really believing a drone is going to turn up any minute, hopefully with the ordered goods still attached.

It’s not known if the drone would fly to its destination using GPS coordinates or be guided by an Amazon employee with a headset and controller.

Drone devotees, as well as pizza fans, will be well aware that Bezos isn’t the first person to have the idea of making deliveries in this fashion. Domino’s Pizza, for example, was reported earlier this year to be already testing out a pizza-carrying octocopter known as the DomiCopter.

Charlie Rose, admittedly not well known for his Amazon-related forecasts, believes the e-commerce giant has a good chance of getting its delivery drones in the sky, explaining that while “everything has not been a success at Amazon….the successes far outweigh the failures.”

Besides tackling safety concerns with its octocopter, Amazon will also have to deal with noise and cost issues, as well as with mischievous types running around with huge nets on long poles attempting to scoop flying goods out of the sky as they pass overhead.

[This article was first published in December, 2013.]