BUSINESS

Amazon Just Made Its First Successful Drone Delivery

An autonomous drone took 13 minutes to bring an Amazon Fire TV and popcorn to Richard B.'s house.

BUSINESS
Amazon
Dec 14, 2016 at 2:01 PM ET

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s dreams are slowly becoming reality: an autonomous drone has successfully delivered an Amazon package for the first time.

It was just three years ago when Bezos appeared on “60 Minutes” with a special announcement: Amazon was developing autonomous drones to deliver its wares in 30 minutes or less. There were doubters: “This whole drone idea is stupid and it will never happen,” said Philadelphia Magazine; “Drones won’t deliver anything but hype for the foreseeable future,” ThinkProgress proclaimed; “Amazon drones are a completely ridiculous and unworkable idea, of course, and will (no pun intended) never get off the ground anytime in our lifetimes,” InvestorPlace cried.

But now comes word that an autonomous Amazon drone just made its first delivery on December 7, as Bezos himself tweeted on Wednesday.

In the video that accompanied Bezos’ tweet, one “Richard B.” orders an Amazon Fire TV (with 4K Ultra HD) and a bag of popcorn from his living room. At the Amazon warehouse, an employee fulfills Richard B.’s order (we will assume Amazon’s own products do not have the same counterfeit issues that many other items sold on Amazon do, according to numerous lawsuits) and it is packed into a small container on a “Prime Air” labeled quadcopter, which then zips across the foggy and picturesque English countryside until it reaches Richard B.’s home. It deposits the package in his yard (or “garden,” to use English parlance) and returns to base. Richard B. runs out and gets his items before a neighbor can steal them. The entire process, Amazon says, took just 13 minutes.

Successful first delivery aside, the drones still have a long way to go before they come into mainstream use. Amazon is currently in a “private beta” test with just a few customers, all of whom live close to the Cambridge fulfillment center. Even if the technology is there, Amazon will have to build more fulfillment centers and regulatory hurdles will have to be cleared. But it sure looks a lot more realistic than it did three years ago.