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Amazon demonstrates drone delivery service

December 02, 2013|By Carolyn Kellogg

Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos appeared on CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday to talk about the company's efficiencies and recent innovations. During a piece that ranged from delivering groceries to providing cloud computing to the CIA via Amazon Web Services, the most eye-catching item was something that doesn't yet exist: Drone delivery. The company is calling it Prime Air.

"These are octocopters," Bezos told Charlie Rose. "These are effectively drones, but there's no reason that they can't be used as delivery vehicles."

The electricity-powered drones, which are still in development, are designed to pilot themselves and drop deliveries of up to five pounds on the doorstep of Amazon customers within 30 minutes.

"I know this looks like science fiction; it's not," Bezos said, showing the demonstration video above.

The technology has been ready to go in Australia since this fall. A partnership between Flirtey, an unmanned-aerial-vehicle company and textbook company Zookal demonstrated its drone delivery service in October. If given the green light by Australian authorities, their drone delivery could be operational in Sydney by March 2014.

During his "60 Minutes" appearance, Bezos explained that the Amazon drone delivery was still a few years away. "I'm an optimist, Charlie," he said. "I know it can't be before 2015, because that's the earliest we could get the rules from the FAA."

Nevertheless, he was confident: "It will work, and it will happen."

Bezos said 86% of Amazon orders would be covered by the five-pound weight limit, which would of course include some print books. Though he didn't talk specifically about book delivery on the show, he did address questions Rose raised about some in publishing being concerned about Amazon's business practices.

"You gotta earn your keep in this world," Bezos said. " ... Amazon is not happening to bookselling; the future is happening to bookselling."

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