Amazon's Bezos: We have eighth generation drones in the works

Amazon's Bezos: We have eighth generation drones in the works

Summary: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says the company is well on its way to delivering future generations of its octocopters in preparation for clearance by regulators.

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has told investors the company is working on its seventh and eighth generation Prime drones, which the company hopes will be making deliveries by 2015.

If Bezos gets his way, Amazon’s compact unmanned "octocopter" will be delivering shoebox-sized parcels across the US well before the five-year timeline he initially outlined.

While some saw Bezos' announcement of its drone project last December as a publicity stunt, he's reassured investors in his 2013 Letter to Shareholders that he's deadly serious about getting the delivery service off the ground.

"The Prime Air team is already flight testing our fifth and sixth generation aerial vehicles, and we are in the design phase on generations 7 and 8," Bezos wrote.

Amazon said on its FAQ page for Prime drones that it hopes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will have set rules for drones "as early as sometime in 2015". So far the FAA has only acknowledged that drones could be useful in some commercial and civilian scenarios, and is weighing up what minimum safety requirements it would need to support them. 

"We will be ready at that time," Amazon said.

2014-04-11 12.58.04 pm
Image credit: Amazon

The FAA's caution is with good reason. A drone being used to film a triathlon in Western Australia last week was responsible for hospitalising a competitor after the vehicle fell about 10 metres and struck her on the head.

According to the drone's operator, the device — which operated on the 2.5GHz frequency — was hacked by someone channel hopping. An illegal unmanned drone in NSW also had a near-collision with a Westpac rescue helicopter earlier this month.  

Bezos noted that Amazon's drones are the pointy-end of its wider international delivery services, including its partnership with the US Postal Service for Sunday deliveries; its "last-mile" distribution network in the UK and bike couriers in India and China.

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Topic: Amazon

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Amazon’s Bezos: We have eighth generation drones in the works

    Might be nice in theory but loaded with problems in reality. Like you example of one just dropping out of the sky. Its mechanical and there will be issues. You also have to think about the rednecks going hunting. If they see one of these drones flying overhead it might get shot down. Either that or someone is going to come up with a clever way to catch one, turn off its gps and tracking, and then get themselves a free drone.
    Loverock.Davidson
    • Rednecks, Mr. Davidson?

      My money is on UPS, Fedex and U.S. Postal Service employees.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Theft?

    I still have no idea how they're going to defend people's merchandise from being shot out of the sky by people who are obviously going to prey on these drones for fun. You can make it "illegal" but all someone has to do is shoot it down real quick, collect the freebies inside and dash.
    James Halloran
  • Altitude

    I suppose they would be flying at an altitude that would make it difficult to shoot down until they reach their destination. That might bring on more issues though.
    rfoto
    • It's one thing for RC hobbiest to fly in a field

      or some open location, where they wont interfere in any type of air traffic, but something totally different to have these things flying around populated air spaces.
      William.Farrel
  • are these landing?

    Wonder, if these drones are designed to land, or they are supposed to drop the packet in "your" area. Obviously not very good idea in crowded areas, where not only the goods, but the drone could also be seized by strangers.
    If it will land, are you supposed to build or install a pre-made landing pad for the thing?
    danbi
  • One wonders indeed

    Looking across the road and observing that a lot of Londoners live in multi-story blocks, one wonders how a drone would deliver to a flat on say, the nth floor. It begs the question, who is Amazon's target market with these drones?

    There's also the problem these things from being hijacked/shot/attacked by angry birds/etc. Not to mention the catastrophic issues of pies in the sky!

    Are the Amazon people who came up with and/or approved this in/from Colorado or Jamaica?
    ego.sum.stig
    • One Wonders indeed

      Actually, Amazon is aiming the drones at suburbia here in the US. In most cases there is a front porch or doorstep that the drone can land on, drop the package, then lift off and return.

      This doesn't work in an urban environment because of the delivery access issues. Although if you have an apartment with an outside balcony it would probably work. However, the drones could deliver to a regional bike delivery service for the "last mile" delivery, avoiding the cost of fuel for a truck.

      That's the real reason for this. Fuel costs for delivery are steadily going up, whereas electricity for a drone can be obtained from a solar panel.

      As for rednecks shooting it out of the sky -- not going to happen. Rednecks love technology. Now, in some urban environments where the residents are so poor you might be mugged or shot for your shoes...that would be a drone "no-fly" zone.
      bobs@...
  • poor concept

    Overhead wires, trees, gusty winds, small payloads and 'value on ebay' make this a non-starter. Bezos and either smoking something of stretching out the publicity. Probably none of the team working on this wants to speak up otherwise they will be out of a job.
    dalezuk@...
  • So dumb

    Stealing a working drone would be difficult and hard to keep long term. By and large, cars are stolen for parts, the same thing will happen with drones.

    I still believe this is more of a publicity stunt than viable business strategy.
    alsw