Almost two years ago Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos made a bet with the crew of 60 Minutes after luring its contributor Charlie Rose to his company’s offices with an exclusive. Jeff said if he can guess what it is then he will give him half of his fortune.
As per the sources, it turned out to be Amazon’s proposal of delivery drone system that seemed so revolutionary that even the usually unfazed Rose had to react like “Oh my God.”But that was an idea in 2013 as Drone delivery is not as illogical of an idea in 2015 as it was two years ago.
The moment Alibaba announced that it is going to test a drone delivery service this week in China, few believed that the Chinese e-commerce giant hitting its American correspondent to the punch and offering to the world that drone delivery could be able to work now, within 5 years as Amazon had added.
Alibaba’s drone delivery examination this week appears won’t push the envelope towards a future where drones deliver packages.
Alibaba’s drones will only going to deliver packets of tea in which hot water is not included. It’s the like if a drone delivered the customer a K-Cup, yet they would still require the Keurig machine to get the end product. Until they find out how to deliver hot tea in a cup that’s ready to be delivered to the consumers, this is nothing more than an attracting trick and even less something that’s economically feasible.
The distribution of tea bags cannot examine the capacity of a drone’s weight either. Alibaba’s drones can have a maximum payload of roughly two pounds or the equivalent to one litre of water. In the meantime, tea packets hardly weigh a few ounces. If these drones were employed to deliver other products, then there will be very limited options available for drone delivery. So unless people need a toothbrush or one shoe, they will have to opt for the traditional and manned shipping options.
Then there’s the issue of the delivery. There are 450 shoppers who will get their tea delivered by drone that must be in one of the designated areas – one in each of the three test cities of Beijing Shanghai and Guangzhou – the size of which stretch roughly a few city blocks, which clearly is not an extensive analysis of the drone’s range that Alibaba mentioned was about 10 kilometers.
There is even a bigger issue than with the drone as there is the path the drone would require taking in order to reach its destination. In the promotional video that followed the news release, the drone leave the warehouse and makes a shortcut towards its destination, in the process flying smoothly over highways, buildings and roller coaster. But despite the description, navigating even a few hundred feet off the ground in a vertical city like Shanghai is hazardous.
The ability to sense and prevent is still a very essential technology and one that will be heavily entrusted upon once drones are allowed to integrate entirely in the national airspace so to prevent buildings and structures, manned aircraft and power lines. But unless Alibaba has this technology already in its drones, this one-off experiment doesn’t provide any solution for the fundamental matter of safety.
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Alibaba’s experiment will feature the obstacles facing drone delivery today. But without advancement in technology and a set of regulations governing automatic aircraft, drone delivery will be nothing but an innovation. Dealing with these obstacles will be the beginning step that will one day cause drones delivering the packages, which is not just a bag of tea.