Amazon Drone Delivery System - Patented and Ready to Fly

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Last December an Amazon drone made its first delivery of an Amazon Fire TV and a bag of popcorn in Cambridgeshire England. It took 13 minutes from order to delivery (see a video of the event below). It seems that Amazon's plan for a fully deployed system will involve high altitude blimps serving as mother ships with packages that are then delivered by drones. A drone will be loaded with a customer's order at the blimp and then drop and glide with gravity before powering up and making delivery to the specified location. Amazon received US patent #9,305,280 on this concept in April 2016. Amazon is not alone in the quest. Alphabet (aka Google) is working on something similar called Project Wing. The US Postal Service, FedEx, UPS and others are working on this too. One way or another, in some form, in at least some locations, drone air service seems inevitable in the next few years.

There is no question that the concept of fast air delivery by drones is super cool. But there are drawbacks aplenty including safety concerns, a new form of visual air pollution and, as with driverless cars and trucks, lost jobs. A survey by the United States Post Office Director General last October found that the public is definitely mixed on the concept. With 1465 people responding and an overemphasis on rural areas, the survey found that 44% like the idea of drone delivery, 34% dislike it and the rest are indifferent.  IMHO, those numbers will likely become much more negative when drone delivery becomes commonplace. But by then it will be too late to stop it. 

With safety, regulatory, economic and aesthetic concerns in mind, concerns about performance in bad weather and in crowded areas, along with mixed public perception and higher delivery costs, I ran the drone delivery service concept through the Inventicator™ where it found an ICQ score of 60. That is a "maybe" and makes this seem like an iffy investment proposition. The reason for the low score is that I assumed the regulatory issues would be extremely tough. If the government gets behind this idea and lightens regulatory hurdles then, the ICQ rises to 105, a score which signifies "good odds".

Regardless of how the Inventicator™ determines odds, the momentum behind drone air delivery is substantial and the service is almost certain to be a part of our future. Inventors working on ideas for this future should read up as much as they can and then try and visualize the world a decade from now. Inventors should assume that, with many of the best minds in the world already working on the details of drone delivery, most of the obvious concepts, such as secure package delivery boxes, are already being worked on. If you want to invent in this space you should look either far into the future or into corners where others are unlikely to look.

Meanwhile, I'm gonna be pushing for laws that entitle me to do whatever I want to any drone that flies over my house at low altitude without an invitation. :-)

- Mike 


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