When Amazon Goes Airborne, Birds Go Crazy

Recently, CBS 60 Minutes did a piece where Amazon CEO,  Jeff Bezos outlined a visionary future of package delivery by remote controlled drones. I applaud this step into a star wars type of package home deliveries. It is bold and if it works, will transform the way we do business.

Amazon Packages By Drone

Will Amazon be able to fly similar packages like this? Photo credit: Keerati of free digital photos


Of course, the initial setup costs would be off a slice of Amazon’s income with Amazon raking in millions of dollars annually in revenue (Revenue was up 17.09 billion in the 3rd quarter of 2013). This would be added to their expenses resulting in more losses to the company’s bottom line. They made a loss in the 3rd quarter even though their revenue figures were high.

I am a supporter of innovation that will help with faster package deliveries and that which also brings the cost of shipping down.

However, this recent article by Konstantin Kakaes in Slate Magazine deliberates on why this concept can’t possibly work. It makes for interesting reading and I wonder whether Konstantin will be proven right or whether he will be proven wrong.

In an infomercial hosted by Charlie Rose on CBS’s 60 Minutes this weekend, Amazon announced that it plans to deliver small packages via drone in the near future. Many media outlets have credulously repeated this claim, just like they did with the beer-delivering drone and the taco-delivering drone.

However, the technical, regulatory, and logistical challenges of autonomous flight in crowded American urban airspace are far more profound than Bezos allowed on TV. For more details, read… Amazon Prime Drone Delivery? It’s Hot Air.


And then, there is another article by Nicholas Lund of Slate Magazine as well that provides another argument of why the Amazon drone idea will not work. According to Lund, its the birds that will be the biggest hindrance for this idea to be successful. He pushes the oft quoted enemy of flying aircraft as the real issue to deal with.

Here is an extract of his article from Oh, Amazon? Birds Are Going to Attack Those Delivery Drones….

Birds already cause a lot of problems for other things in the airspace. The FAA has tracked more than 121,000 instances of bird-aircraft collisions since 1990. These are accidental; the birds—most frequently gulls or pigeons, or in the case of the plane that landed on the Hudson River, Canada geese—are spooked off a runway during takeoff or landing.

The difference for Amazon’s drones is that the birds will be chasing them. Unseen to us, the skies are checkered with fiercely defended bird territories. Open-country raptors—hawks, eagles, kites, harriers, etc.—don’t take kindly to interlopers on their hunting grounds, and frequently chase, dive-bomb, and take talons to intruders.

Whatever is the case, Amazon has a lot on its plate right now so we will just have to wait and see.