January 3, 2014

Delivery drones? Amazon's late to the party

The U.S. Marines have been delivering heavy cargo via unmanned cargo helicopters for nearly two years, says DCV blogger.

By DC Velocity Staff

Amazon.com's plans to use remote-controlled drones to deliver products to consumers dominated the news for a few days after company founder Jeff Bezos revealed the scheme in a "60 Minutes" interview. But, as our defense logistics expert Steve Geary points out in a blog post, Amazon is well behind the curve: The U.S. Marines have been using drones to make deliveries for some time now.

As Geary noted in a Dec. 8 post, "The Marines have flown unmanned cargo helicopters for the past year and a half in Afghanistan, completing about 1,300 missions. The Marines' K-MAX unmanned helicopter ... flies resupply missions to combat outposts in Southwest Afghanistan, and it does it to keep our sons and daughters out of harm's way." (Geary also wrote about the concept during its test phase in 2010.)

According to Geary, the Marine Corps version of a delivery drone can carry up to 6,000 pounds of cargo and reportedly has a range of about 500 miles, "which means that it could do a round-trip delivery from Boston to New York City."

Amazon is not even the first to deploy drones for consumer deliveries. According to news reports, China's Shunfeng Express is experimenting with drones for package delivery. And in Australia, a textbook-rental startup called Zookal says it will begin using drones for deliveries in Sydney in 2014. Customers will be able to track a drone's progress via a smartphone app; the drones hover overhead and lower their loads at a command from a customer's phone. Anticollision technology will help keep Zookal's dome-shaped flyers away from trees, buildings, and birds. (Hawks and falcons regularly menace remote-controlled aircraft, as a flock of YouTube videos attest.)

Regulations controlling the movements of unmanned flying vehicles will have to be amended or updated before any of the companies can make commercial deliveries.

Defense Logistics Videos

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you're not already logged in, you will be asked to log in or register.

Subscribe to DC Velocity

Feedback: What did you think of this article? We'd like to hear from you. DC VELOCITY is committed to accuracy and clarity in the delivery of important and useful logistics and supply chain news and information. If you find anything in DC VELOCITY you feel is inaccurate or warrants further explanation, please ?Subject=Feedback - : Delivery drones? Amazon's late to the party">contact Chief Editor David Maloney. All comments are eligible for publication in the letters section of DC VELOCITY magazine. Please include you name and the name of the company or organization your work for.