I think there is a real future in automatic delivery but Amazon’s idea of fleets of flying drones with packages doesn’t make sense.
The future of automatic delivery I feel rests with self-driving vehicle technology. A truck or even a very small cart that drives itself on the ground to your location seems not just possible, but likely in the next two decades. This system would have all the advantages of automatic delivery without the hurdles of trying to fly thousands of drones in an urban environment.
Needlessly adding flying to the equation makes everything much more difficult. Flying is inherently an energy inefficient form of travel. It would require tight controls of package weight, limiting it to only very small light package,s while a self-driving truck could deliver anything. One is a fun niche service, the other could change commerce in a profound way.
A ground vehicle can easily deal with weather issues like heavy wind and icy rain which would wreck havoc on a copter. What is the point of fast delivery system that doesn’t work on the bad weather days when people are least inclined to simply walk to a store?
In addition, it is very easy to bring down something that is flying close to the ground. Everything from birds, to trees, to mischief kids is a real problem. And giant machines falling out of the sky is not good for a brand.
As an avid sci-fi fan I do enjoy when companies get people thinking about the possibilities of new technology but copter drones delivering packages will almost never make sense. There is probably a big future for automatic delivery but I doubt it will be airborne. It is a much better PR stunt to get people thinking about possibilities than a practical idea.
We probably won’t have a lot of flying drone deliveries for the same reason we still don’t have many jet-packs and flying cars. From a physics perspective traveling short distance on the ground is almost always smarter.
Photo by JimNTexas under Creative Commons license