Amazon Prime customers in Lockeford, Calif., will begin receiving package deliveries by drone later this year, Amazon announced Monday. That would make the community of 3,500 one of the first locations in the US to deliver free drones within 30 minutes — a promise Amazon founder Jeff Bezos first made nearly a decade ago.
The e-commerce company began contacting customers in Lockeford this week asking them to sign up for drone delivery, Amazon spokesman Av Zammit said. Once a customer signs up, an Amazon employee will drop by to make sure their yard has enough clearance to accept drone deliveries, Zammit added.
Drone delivery is free for Prime members and only Prime members can use the service. There will be “thousands of items available” for drone delivery, Zammit said, but declined to provide more details.
Amazon said it was working with the Federal Aviation Administration and local regulators to obtain permits for the program, according to a blog post that also touted Lockeford as a flight experiment site.
“Lockeford residents will play an important role in shaping the future. Their feedback on Prime Air, with drones delivering parcels to their backyards, will help us create a service that scales securely to meet the needs of customers everywhere. meet,” the blog post reads. predicting that drone delivery “could one day become as commonplace as seeing an Amazon delivery van in front of your house.”
Amazon received FAAfor its commercial drone delivery program in 2020. However, drones often face local and state regulations and federal regulations, not to mention the concerns of neighborhood and community groups in some areas.
Walmart, UPS are preparing their drones
According to Zak Stambor, senior retail and e-commerce analyst at Insider Intelligence, Amazon is largely responsible for sparking the current race to commercialize drone package delivery. When Bezos are…in 2013, “He urged everyone to move into that space,” Stambor said.
Other major retailers and tech companies are now developing their own drone programs. Walmart has startedin Arkansas and plans to expand to locations in six states this year. Alphabet’s drone delivery program, called Wing, launched this summer near Dallas-Fort Worth and delivers prescriptions, pet meds, and ice cream. UPS is also developing a drone service.
Amazon’s own drone program is experiencing delays and staff turnover, according to media reports. At least eight Amazon drones have crashed in the past year and the Prime Air division is experiencing a 71% employee turnover rate, Business Insider reported in March. A Bloomberg News survey in April concluded that despite Amazon spending $2 billion to develop the program and hiring more than 1,000 employees, “Amazon is a long way from launching a drone delivery service.” .”
and a tight job market are boosting retailers’ current interest in drones, Stambor said.
“You understand why delivery with drones would make sense, at a time when there is a labor shortage, it is very difficult to hire truck drivers. For example, gas prices are rising and the end is not yet in sight,” Stambor said.
But the delivery of drones also faces “a myriad of challenges, largely in terms of safety and cost,” making it unclear whether drones can solve current logistical bottlenecks, he said.
Delivery by drone is much more expensive than delivery by truck and also requires a trained operator, Stambor said. According to an internal Amazon estimate, the cost of a package flown is $63, compared to about $5 when the same package is shipped by a third-party carrier such as UPS or the US Post Office.
Insider Intelligence estimates there will be 39,000 drone deliveries this year and 69,000 next year.