Amazon: could bike delivery trump drones?

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Amazon have been tantalising the media with high-tech tales of drones for more than a year and they are even hiring in Cambridge to develop the next generation of fulfilment from the sky.

It has a hint of the ludicrous for us and would require legislative change in the UK and US to allow parcel delivery from unmanned, aerial robot delivery units. So much could go wrong. That said, one company is already developing special nets to receive the goods in a secure way nonetheless.

But in the Big Apple, Amazon is apparently now innovating back to an invention of the 19th century and getting back to basics when it comes to urban delivery. In New York City they are experimenting with bicycles. It makes a great deal of sense.

It’s a 1 to 2 hour service, $5.99 extra for Prime members and $8.99 for those who are not and they’re also providing for the riders.

They’ve opened a special clubhouse in Manhatten that not only offers a place for the two-wheeled deliverers to chill out and interact but it’s also a warehouse space that can take returns. It all sounds much more sensible than drones.

6 Responses

  1. Re: Drones – Amazon shareholders will go along with this? And who is going to pay for the installation of the capture nets? And then there are the planning authorities in the UK. What about multi occupational buildings? National and international security services simply won’t allow this to happen. Pie in the sky literally.

    Re: cycle couriers – sensible idea but at a price and again what about the traffic and accident risks in congested cities?

  2. Given that the CAA insists on drones being within sight of their operator at all times (which would give a delivery distance of 500m) along with other restrictions bike delivery seems to be a lot more sensible.

  3. When I was a child back in the 1950’s and 60’s almost every corner shop had a delivery bike with a basket mounted on it. It was a common sight for a young lad from the shop to be seen speeding around the neighbourhood with a box of groceries or whatever in the basket.

    But the roads were a lot less crowded then. Also there were many fewer of the ‘ungodly’ who might target a young lad on a bike making deliveries. After all a box of groceries costs whatever. The parcels from Amazon could be many times that.

    So is there an alternative? Of course there is. A small van is certainly a lot safer and more weatherproof. and the driver could take several parcels at the same time to the same estate or suburb.

    Again going back to the 1950’s and 60’s what did the average Corner Shop turn to after the Shop Delivery Bike? Well it was the small van often such as the Morris Minor Van.

    It does sound to me as if Amazon is trying very hard to re-invent the wheel.

  4. Yeah, I really can’t see the CAA allowing flying drones in built-up areas. It probably contravenes several ANO’s (Air Navigation Orders), and if not, then they’ll no doubt write some more ANO’s so that it does.

    Personally, as a Pilot, I would not welcome such use of airspace, even if it is only within a few tens of feet of the ground. I had to undergo rigorous training to be allowed to pilot a plane ‘first person’, as in, sitting inside it. Flying a drone is so much more dangerous for those on the ground. For one thing, you cannot possibly keep a proper looout via a forward-fixed camera…. it smacks of flight simulator ‘pilots’ who have their vision caged forward all the time (because they have to keep looking at the screen), whereas in a real plane you have your head swivelling all around the sky, all the time.

    It’s one thing flying model aircraft or drones out in the countryside; flying them in built-up areas is a different thing entirely. I’ve never been the sort of person who derides new ideas and technology – I was in the forefront of medical research for several years of my career – but this really is dangerous and completely crazy.

    But as I said, I can’t see it happening.


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