It's not the destination, it's the distribution.
Or so is my first thought after hearing Amazon's announcement of a projected service to deliver packages of 5 pounds or less via GPS-guided drone.
The drone delivering your package will sit at the bay door end of a conveyor belt in a warehouse fulfillment center.
In his interview on 60 Minutes, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that 86% of all products (consumer products? products Amazon sells?) weigh 5 pounds or less. And he says transporting packages by drone, run on electric motors, is more energy efficient than shipping by truck.
(Quick algebra problem: how energy-efficient do drones have to be, for a fleet of them to use less energy then a truck carrying the same aggregate payload of 5 pound packages?)
Well, I like things that fly in the air for peaceful purposes.
And here are the top three things I like about the projected Amazon Prime Air service:
- Disintermediating bike messengers. Having retrieved your item from the drone-delivered weather-resistant tub, it should be simple enough to place something you would like to be delivered back into the tub, for another leg of the drone's journey. Maybe the drone's last sortie for the day would be a trip back to the fulfillment center with a return. But in between, the drone could be a private delivery and messenger service. If you can run AWS from your retail Amazon customer account, why not program your delivery drone from the same dashboard?
- The romance of typewriters, vinyl records, aeroplanes. A substantial portion of the magic is physical. Sure, it's an arm of the distribution network, which software and math are making efficient. But the mechanism for the last mile takes up and navigates space. A romance trains once had.
- Bartending faux pas redemption. Say you are poolside, making cocktails, but have forgotten to brandy cherries in advance? And your guests simply must have Men About Town? Pitted cherries, steeped in French cognac, on their way by drone in a flash.