There was a time when dispatching a package meant waiting weeks before the recipient could expect it.
Trains and stagecoaches were the only methods for delivering basically anything, and just as cars and airplanes revolutionized delivery in the 20th century, the field is being disrupted once again by drones.
A 21st Century Vision
Though drones (using the definition of unmanned aerial vehicles) have been a sort of shadowy figure in public consciousness for decades, the idea that they could be used not only for non-military purposes, but as a means of delivery was only first presented in 2013.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, first articulated the idea of flying robot deliveries at the end of that year with a service called Amazon Prime Air. At the time, it seemed like a far off pipe dream, but the concept has barrelled rapidly toward common use since then.
Though Amazon is the major player in pioneering drone delivery, Google also began testing a similar project in 2016 called Project Wing. As these two Goliaths of tech throw their weight behind drone deliveries, it seems likely that the U.S. Postal Service and other delivery services will also jump on board.
From Vision to Practicality
The idea of drones buzzing around carrying packages to leave on doorsteps may feel like a figment of science fiction, but it’s becoming a more and more likely part of daily reality. To start, Amazon couldn’t simply purchase the sort of drones your neighbor uses to take aerial photography as a hobby, they had to develop their own aircraft.
This in and of itself has been an evolving process, but a June 2019 conference saw Amazon’s newly unveiled drone, capable of multiple modes of flight and equipped with a robust set of safety technologies.
In terms of actual capabilities, the drones can deliver any package under 5 pounds. This may sound like a small carrying capacity, and it is, but at least 75% of the items purchased on the site fall under this limit. Basically, most of what people are ordering on Amazon already could be delivered by drone, and soon it may be.
The Future of Deliveries
There are all sorts of implications of the rise of drone deliveries, some positive and some negative. Of course, geographic location will play a role in whether or not this service is available to you. Urban consumers may soon buy items like toilet paper and toothpaste online since they can be delivered within an hour. Rural customers, on the other hand, likely won’t have this service immediately available.
The rise of drone deliveries is largely considered the first widespread foray into robotic technology interaction with consumers, and its success could serve to calm the world’s nerves about Artificial Intelligence. The concept has appeared in shows like Parks & Recreation, but the somewhat incredulous attitude of the characters mirrors that of the general public.
Drone delivery may prove the future of deliveries the world around, or they may prove an exciting but short lived glimpse into the future. Either way, drone delivery technology serves as a characteristic hallmark of the modern world and its potential.