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Amazon's Drone Strike

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Jeff Bezos unveiled Amazon’s next disruptive delivery service on 60 Minutes last night: a fleet of flying autonomous drones capable of delivering packages within 30 minutes of ordering. Amazon Prime Air, as the project is called, is currently capable of delivering packages weighing 5 pounds or less within a 10 mile radius of Amazon’s distribution centers. The FAA doesn’t have to issue rules for commercial drone use until 2015, and Bezos expects Amazon Prime Air, as the service is called, won’t be fully up and running for another four or five years, but some firms are already employing this technology abroad.

We wrote back in October of an Australian start-up called Flirtey that paired up with the equally-quirkily named textbook rental firm Zookal to deliver its textbooks by drone. The Aussie partnership is hoping to capitalize on the country’s drone-friendly regulatory environment to be first movers in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) deliveries as soon as next year. In China, drone delivery services only need local approval to get started.

Regulatory issues aside, there are still plenty of questions for the technology. What do you do about rock-throwing vandals? About preventing robo-copters from alighting on some hapless human’s head (drone strikes of a very different variety)? About navigating through crowded cities, around trees and power lines, or through windy weather? None of those hurdles will be easily cleared, but having the relentlessly innovative team over at Amazon is a good sign that we’re likely to have drone-delivered packages sooner rather than later.

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