Amazon Takes Delivery to New Heights
Drones and Robots Are on Their Way
By RAHMA HASSAN | Contributing Writer
Amazon debuted its first airplane, Amazon One, a Boeing 737-600, at the Seafair summer festival in Seattle on August 4. The plane is just one of several developments by Amazon to expedite and streamline package delivery to its customers.
Amazon One, the first of a planned 40 plane fleet, will help expand Amazon’s one and two day package delivery in the U.S., according to a company statement. The success of their one-day delivery service for Prime users has them thinking about ways to expedite delivery further using drones and robots.
The future of delivery is unmanned
Amazon is developing a drone program that will revolutionize package delivery. They just requested clearance from the FAA to fly their drones, CNN reported. Amazon also developed and is already testing a robot to deliver prime packages to customers’ homes, taking out the delivery man from the equation.
The new delivery robot named Scout is designed to be a more environmentally sustainable option than delivery vehicles. It’s a challenging feat given that it must navigate through sidewalks and neighborhoods that aren’t structured with stop lights, all the while anticipating unexpected movements from people or pets. Despite those challenges Amazon has already sent Scout to the streets in Washington, where it has been delivering packages successfully to Prime users for several months.
Scout is one step in making Amazon’s fulfillment more streamlined and autonomous. But Amazon has its eyes in the sky for faster, more efficient and sustainable delivery.
Amazon has been working on developing a delivery drone for several years. They debuted their newest design at a conference in Las Vegas, in June, revealing that with improvements on safety and other issues, customers can expect this service to start “within months.”
The drone is designed to deliver packages of under 5 pounds within a 15-mile radius in less than 30 minutes, according to a company statement. It is fully electric and can maneuver alternately like a helicopter, with vertical and horizontal landings and takeoffs, or like an airplane.
Amazon has put a big emphasis on safety with the drones. Using artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer-vision technologies — the drones are able to react to unexpected situations and avoid obstacles in the air and as they come to land, Amazon said.
“Our drones are safe, efficient, stable, and good for the environment,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, in a company statement. “We know customers have high standards, so we set a high bar for Prime Air. And we’re excited to be nearing our goal.”
In its efforts to be ahead of everyone else, this is yet another field Amazon is looking to pioneer.
In a recent RETAIL Rundown podcast, Doug Stephens, retail futurist and founder of Retail Prophet, told RETHINK Retail that Amazon’s move into shipping and transportation could revolutionize the shipping industry; potentially becoming the “gold standard.”
“Amazon is literally becoming not just a shipping company that will serve their own needs, but as is the case with most things Amazon, what they do is actually scale a best in class service that they could then potentially portion out to other retailers,” Stephens said.
Have you met Scout the delivery bot?
The success of Scout on its first trial run has Amazon expanding it to other markets. Designed to look similar to a cooler on wheels, Scout has been delivering thousands of packages in Washington — navigating through rain and snow as well as obstacles on the roads — all the while making friends, Amazon revealed in a company statement.
On Tuesday Scout began delivering packages in the Irvine California area, on weekdays during daylight hours. Customers in the area will order their packages as they normally do and can expect to be greeted either by Scout or a delivery driver. Scout is designed to autonomously follow a delivery route but will be accompanied at first by a “Amazon Scout Ambassador,” according to Amazon.
“We’re still in field test mode and our expansion to the Irvine area is just another in the many steps forward for this new delivery system,” said the Vice President of Amazon Scout Sean Scott, in a company statement. “The future is right around the corner, and we couldn’t be more excited.”
To make design changes and improvements more efficient, Amazon created dedicated hardware and software labs in Seattle where they can fix problems and monitor the delivery bots.
“We don’t need to wait on external parts or software updates; we can rapidly prototype hardware components and write new code, and are able to validate our efforts in real-time,” Scott said in a company statement.
New transportation options part of Amazon’s zero carbon shipments plan
Amazon rolled out Shipment Zero, a plan to achieve net zero carbon on its shipments, with a goal of achieving 50% by 2030.
Amazon has a team of 200 product designers, scientists and engineers dedicated to inventing new ways to improve sustainability, according to Amazon. They also have been working on a project to create an advanced scientific model for their carbon footprint and will be sharing their company-wide carbon footprint as well as sustainability goals and programs later this year.
Projects like Scout and Prime Air are intended to reduce emissions and fulfill Amazon’s sustainability goals.
“Today, most of us run to the store because we need an item now,” Wilke said. “With a service like Prime Air, we’ll be able to order from home and stay home. This saves tremendously on fuel usage and reduces emissions.”
*Photos courtesy of Amazon