What Hurdles Will Amazon Prime Air Need to Overcome?

By Victoria Greene – @vickyecommerce

At the beginning of December, it will have been 5 years since Amazon kingpin Jeff Bezos announced plans for Amazon Prime Air. Initially mocked in popular culture, everyone soon realized that it’s precisely the sort of thing Amazon could and would do, and settled back to see where the chips would fall.

Today, the dream has yet to come to fruition — and other companies have followed suit in betting big on drone delivery hardware and systems — yet the smart money remains on Amazon being the big beneficiary of this automated revolution, especially since it has put so much time and money into getting it right.

amazon prime air drone
Credits: Amazon Prime Air

However, by the time Amazon’s Prime Air drone fleet goes live (whether in 2019 or much later), it will need to have overcome some major hurdles that currently face all drone delivery systems. What hurdles are those? Let’s go through them.

Legally using airspace

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is still in the early stages of figuring out how it’s going to handle approval for drone fleets, and thus far its regulations have focussed on manned personal drones. To this point its limitations have been based on maintaining the privacy of citizens and protecting airspace required for other things (such as planes).

Add Prime Air to the mix and you get a tremendously complex situation. Who will be monitoring the drones, and how? How will Amazon avoid drones getting in the way of planes, particularly in busy urban areas? Presumably there will need to be an overarching cross-system network to keep everything neatly synched, but that will increase the complexity.

And in the event of something going wrong, who will ultimately hold responsibility? How will anyone know for sure? If a Prime Air drone crashes into a drone from a rival shipping company (and self-destructs, apparently), each company might claim the fault must have been with the other. It’s certainly understandable that authorities would want to take a lot of time to figure out how everything is going to work before opening the floodgates.

Public distaste for automated transport

On the topic of responsibility, there remains a lot of antipathy towards automated transport systems and smart technology in general. For better or worse, people like to feel that cars, buses, bikes, planes, trains, and, yes, drones are manually controlled. When something goes wrong, there’s someone to blame — someone to hate (and to sue if needed).

When you take the manual control away — or move it back several levels to a position of limited oversight — you attract pushback. Not only do people not want to entrust shadowy automated systems with important tasks (and even their fates), but they also don’t like the consequences in the world of employment.

Just think about what will happen if Prime Air becomes a roaring success and the drone delivery system becomes an ecommerce staple. Heavy things will still need to be shipped by road, naturally, but that will be cold comfort to the many delivery drivers likely to be pushed elsewhere to work for smaller and cheaper companies that can’t afford or justify drones.

The world of technology may have greatly expanded the business opportunities for entrepreneurial types (with a laptop and an internet connection you can take courses, start a store and sell your small business for a tidy profit), but not everyone wants to learn tech. They want to preserve their careers, and drones will prevent them from doing so. The antipathy will eventually fade, but there will be many bitter pills to swallow first.

Keeping communications secure

Amazon Prime Air will invariably have manual oversight (if only to keep investors happy and placate the public), but secure communication will be essential regardless. The more drones are in the air at any time, the more carefully they will need to be arranged to avoid clashes. But the networking demands go past that.

When you establish a high-profile network of any kind, you inevitably attract attempts to hack it: to shut it down, draw data from it, or alter its protocols somehow. Each drone will need to be able to send and receive data to and from the main Amazon system, so people will no doubt attempt to seize drones and analyze them to find a way to break into it.

Could people find ways to locate drones holding expensive items and reroute them? It’s plausible. Very unlikely, I’d say, since I don’t think Amazon would go live without being very confident in its ability to keep its software secure, but this is certainly an obstacle that will need to be completely overcome before getting anywhere.

Establishing enough fulfilment centers

Drone fleets (using today’s technology, at least) will offer incredible flexibility and convenience at the cost of range. When Prime Air was announced, it was noted that a drone delivery must be within a 10-mile radius of an Amazon fulfilment center, which means that Amazon will need a lot more fulfilment centers if it hopes to ever make Prime Air a default delivery option.

And even if it manages to get that many fulfilment centers set up, how will stock levels be handled? The level of complexity will go through the roof. Might we see complex chains of drone deliveries, with one transporting an item to another fulfilment center to be picked up and carried along by another drone? Or will Amazon simply rely on demand prediction models and keep Prime Air as an occasional delivery method?

I don’t anticipate it replacing next-day (or even same-day) standard delivery, but I can certainly see it becoming a very common option. It won’t happen until Amazon gets the infrastructure in place, though, so let’s see how things proceed.

Amazon Prime Air has a lot of promise, but there are many challenges for it to pass before any of that promise can be fulfilled. Thankfully, once it does pass those challenges, there will be a convenient fulfilment system available to make it happen.

Victoria Greene: Brand Marketing Consultant

Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing expert and freelance writer who can’t wait to jump on the drone delivery bandwagon. You can read more of her work at her blog Victoria Ecommerce.

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SOURCE: Personal Drones – Read entire story here.

Natural Power acquires drone software specialist Ascent Technologies

Press release: Natural Power acquires Ascent Technologies

Leading renewable energy consultancy and service provider, Natural Power, has acquired the Texas-based firm Ascent Technologies – a developer of software for commercial unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operations.

The specialist software, which has been developed by Ascent Technologies during the course of the past two years, will enable Natural Power to automate drone flights, thus increasing speed, consistency and quality of the data gathered during wind turbine blade inspections.

Watch Natural Power’s drone video here

https://vimeo.com/315845975

natural_power_Drone
Natural Power Drone

The automation enabled by this new software means that the drone system calculates and manages the optimal flight along the surfaces of the blades without pilot intervention, as well as constantly monitoring, adjusting and optimising camera angles, exposure, focal distance and timing of the image acquisition. This ensures excellent data quality capture during the inspection process, whilst also enabling a much quicker inspection process that reduces the turbine’s downtime and associated loss of revenue. The cost to undertake the inspections are lowered and the images obtained during the process are of consistently high quality.

Craig Gordon, Global Head of Inspections at Natural Power, said: “Our blade inspections business continues to gather pace and we have invested in a number of drones that will complement our existing blade inspection services. The acquisition of Ascent will enable us to deliver a step change in the wider inspections service that we offer to clients, and coupled with our expert analysis, ensures we deliver a consistently high quality service.”

Stephen Trotter, Managing Director at Natural Power commented: “We continue to invest in key technologies and skills to deliver improved quality and value to our customers. The acquisition of Ascent accelerates this for our inspections business which plays a key role both as a standalone service and as a complement to our analytics, due diligence, operational and asset management services.”

Natural Power is recognised across the renewables sector for its proven track record across the full scope of inspection services, and has worked across various turbine types including, but not limited to, Siemens, Vestas, Senvion, GE, Enercon and Nordex. This has included work in Europe and The Americas. The team uniquely understands the need to achieve best quality data, combined with efficiency in order to maximise the uptime of turbine fleets whilst verifying their condition and integrity. Find out more here https://www.naturalpower.com/our-services/inspections/.

About Natural Power

Natural Power is a leading independent renewable energy consultancy and service provider that employs 360 staff globally. The company offers proactive and integrated consultancy, construction and operational management and due diligence services, backed by an innovative product range, across the onshore wind, offshore wind, solar pv and energy storage and renewable heat sectors as well as other emerging renewable energy technologies.

https://www.naturalpower.com
https://twitter.com/Natural_Power
https://www.linkedin.com/company/natural-power

Contact details:

Jane Maher, PR and Media
Natural Power
T: 07887 995 589
E: janem@naturalpower.com

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SOURCE: Personal Drones – Read entire story here.