Five Years Later, Where are the Amazon Delivery Drones?

Five years ago, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled what many expected to become the future of product delivery: small drones capable of carrying up to five pounds’ worth of cargo.

But Amazon’s high-tech version of “air mail” has yet to reach the mainstream. Perhaps it’s due to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, which presented a considerable challenge to Amazon’s ambitions from the very beginning. It could stem from a lack of human pilots for thousands of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) crisscrossing the skies of major cities. Or maybe Amazon simply crunched the numbers and realized the cost of such a program outweighed the customer base interested in 30-minutes-or-less delivery, at least until the technology evolved further.

Whatever the reason, it’s worth questioning whether the drone phenomenon was overhyped from the beginning. The answer could have a big impact on tech pros who hoped that a burgeoning UAV industry would provide opportunities on the hardware and software front (not to mention e-commerce).

For starters, the concept of drones as an ultra-quick delivery channel isn’t dead. Wing (a division of Alphabet, the umbrella company that owns Google) plans on kicking off a trial delivery service in Finland next spring; the company is already soliciting input from potential customers via an online form that asks what they would like delivered via buzzing drone. This follows on the heels of another Wing drone delivery test in Australia.

According to the Associated Press, which did a follow-up on Amazon’s lack of delivery drones, there are 110,000 commercial drones operating in U.S. airspace, a number that will quadruple over the next four years. Many of these drones are utilized for industrial purposes such as surveying. Moreover, the federal government recently approved a three-year program that will allow companies to test drone capabilities.

Indeed, it seems that the drone industry is still evolving—just more slowly than the hype might have led folks to expect. Nor has Amazon abandoned its quest. “We are committed to making our goal of delivering packages by drones in 30 minutes or less a reality,” a company spokesperson told AP.

For tech pros interested in joining the drone industry, “preferred” skills for at least some target companies include knowledge of complete end-to-end flight systems, experience with MATLAB/Simulink coders, and familiarity with robotics and/or embedded programming for unmanned vehicles. On the software side, knowledge of a grab-bag of programming languages is also a must. Check out this breakdown on Dice, and remember—drones might not crowd the skies yet, but it’s still fairly early in the technology’s lifecycle.

13 Responses to “Five Years Later, Where are the Amazon Delivery Drones?”

  1. That’s never going to happen unless you’re watching The Jetsons because way too many problems will happen with that Fiasco of an idea with drones delivering stuff to people all over the place especially in big cities I mean just think about those drones would not only kill birds but people as well and last thing I want is a bird chopped up landing on my “anything.” Also just like somebody else suggested with a slight different analogy that there will be people that will somehow disable them whether they shoot them down or some other way they can easily be brought down and what if you have a very expensive item clearly Amazon will have to cover that and therefore bringing prices up for Amazon which means prices will also go up for the buyer and seller. However my main thing is we wouldn’t even be able to see the sky it would be so cluttered and congested with just drones flying everywhere because once Amazon does it then other businesses are going to want to do it and say well Amazon does it why can’t I? It would be a very ugly place to live not to mention dangerous because drums can fall and chop your head off they’re like flying guillotines in the karate movies I mean just stop and think about it for a minute that would be a completely different world so yeah I don’t think that’s ever going to happen for at least I pray it doesn’t my order isn’t that important neither is anybody else’s. I would hope that nobody wants to live in a world like that. People should think about things before they just throw an idea out there because people have to look at the whole entire aspect of what they’re doing before they just run out there and do something without considering this world has been destroyed enough with other people’s bad ideas that also had no consideration while they just threw them out there and here we are today paying for it all. Just be real or better yet go watch an episode of The Jetsons and tell me if that’s plausible because remember on the Jetsons there’s no pollution, no birds, no rain, no safety precautions of any kind. Also nobody ever dies because it’s a cartoon we should get our ideas from reality… “functional practical reality”

    • Mike Crosley

      Are you for real? I’m sure Amazon just decided to throw a bunch of drones into the air and never thought about how to avoid birds, or power lines, or anything else you posted about. That’s why its taking five years (plus) because they are rushing and haven’t thought it through. Fuck you’re an idiot!

    • Mike Crosley

      What drums are flying through the air? If you can’t communicate clearly, it might be because you have absolutely no fucking idea what you’re talking about. THINK before you post! THINK about history…about walking giving way to horses, giving way to wagons, giving way to trains, giving way to trucks, giving way to planes…but yeah, there’s no need to evolve transportation because it means the end of the world. God damn, you’re a moron!

  2. Wow okay uwu that was like, mean you know? like, why would you say that? that person is probably crying themselves to sleep ’cause of you, in fact, they’re probably dead!

  3. I can see such technology coming to your neighborhood, but it is still a few year away.
    In ND they are already developing BVLOS infrastructure.

    And in response to “PumaG”, there is also developing technology in “detect and avoid” technology where UAS and manned aircraft would avoid collisions.

    So once the infrastructure is developed, I see it very doable to have quick delivery of packages.

  4. Never happen in the USA. At least not down south. You can’t fly a personal drone for 15 minutes without hearing shots. Amazon is not stupid enough to waste money when they know a population is crazy as fuck. Why do you think they are testing in countries with no guns? Will never exist in the US. Get over it. Or cry, your choice.