So 60 Minutes gave Amazon’s Jeff Bezos a platform to tout his company’s next great idea – Prime Air, a 30-minute delivery service via small unmanned aerial vehicles.
The service, which is still in the testing phase, will be made possible, if it ever gets past the testing phase, by small drones called octocopters, which are drones with eight helicopter-like rotors.
As envisioned by Amazon, these drones will deliver packages weighing up to 5 lb (about 2.3 kg) to customers within 30 minutes of placing an order.
Sounds like a great idea, but one that’s froth with technical and logistical problems. I’ve read many potential issues that could kill this idea in other blogs, but the best argument why Prime Air is dead on arrival comes from David Axe. Here’s part of what he wrote:
Based on my rough calculations, a FedEx driver and his truck cost $40,000 a year to acquire and operate — including the truck’s purchase price spread over a decade of use. A typical driver can deliver 75 packages a day. It would take at least six drones costing $300,000 to do the same amount of work, assuming the robots always work perfectly. The drones would have to fly 12 hour-long, round-trip deliveries five days a week for eight years in order to be even a dollar cheaper than a human driver.
Eight years is a long time for a tiny, complex machine prone to crashes and malfunctions. The bottom line is that people are probably cheaper.
That’s just one of four reasons he gave. But there’s more to take consider.
Amazon.com is not the only online retailer in the country. There’s Walmart, Target. Hey, KMart is still in business. And that’s just the major competitors in the business. Now, how many of these drones do you think Amazon will need to have in operation? At least several hundred.
Ok, imagine about the same number of octocopters from Walmart, Target and KMart criss-crossing the airspace in the country. It’s going to be multiple disasters waiting to happen. And I’m not just hinting at drone-to-drone crashes, but also, drone-to-any-thing-that-flies accidents. It’s going to be hard to keep up. That’s not even taken into consideration the potential hack attacks against the drones.
Great idea, Jeff, but Prime Air won’t fly.
Official Amazon video showing how Prime Air will work.