From SCDigest's On-Target E-Magazine
Company Putting Heat on FAA to Allow Drone Testing, as Whole Industry is Moving Overseas
SCDigest Editorial Staff
Another week, more new programs and fulfillment innovation at Amazon.com
First, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that Amazon is testing bike couriers in New York City in an effort to deliver on-line orders in one hour or less. The report says Amazon has been holding time trials using bikes riders from at least three courier services to identify which is the speediest and most diligent for the bicycle-based delivery mode.
The bike service has been dubbed "Amazon Prime Now" and is operating out of the company's new building in Manhattan.
This obviously opens up a new fulfillment path in addition to use of its own trucks, commercial taxis, drones and other approaches the company has tested in the past year or so.
The Amazon Prime Now test marks the company's first US move into superfast delivery, where it faces challengers that include eBay's eBay Now service as well as startups like WunWun, Postmates, and car-for-hire firm Uber Technologies, which launched its own bike courier service in New York City called Uber Rush earlier this year. eBay, however, is said to have scaled back the ambition of its eBay Now service, which dispatches "valets" to stores to retrieve merchandise, acknowledging the challenges of one-hour delivery, whether operational or relative to the current size of the market.
Relative to drones, Amazon is said to have recently begun testing drones in the UK even as it presses US regulators to let it expand drone testing here. Amazon is also said to be testing drones in India, while Google is reported to be doing the same in the Australian Outback.
Amazon hopes to use drones to deliver small orders in 30 minutes or less. However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has effectively banned commercial drone use, including test flights, until it completes rules for unmanned aircraft in the next several years.
Individual companies, however, can apply for exceptions to the ban, but the process has been slow. Amazon announced this week that it would move even more of its drone research to other countries if it doesn't get permission for drone testing in the US soon, the latest sign that the fast- growing industry is shifting overseas in response to the FAA's cautious approach.
"Without the ability to test outdoors in the United States soon, we will have no choice but to divert even more of our [drone] research and development resources abroad," Paul Misener, Amazon's vice president of global public policy, said in a letter to the FAA on Sunday.
In July, Amazon asked the FAA for permission to test drones in a rural area near its Seattle headquarters. The FAA responded in October, asking Amazon why it doesn't pursue a different exemption process and why its delivery drones are in the public interest.
The FAA policy has riled US drone makers and entrepreneurs who say they are falling behind peers in places like Germany, France and , where drone rules are looser. The US has fewer than 10 approved commercial drone operators while Europe has thousands.
The Kiva Robots Keep Coming
Meanwhile, Amazon also said it is ahead of earlier predictions relative to the number of Kiva robots it has deployed in its fulfillment centers.
The company announced last week it has deployed about 15,000 Kiva robots in 10 fulfillment centers across five states to support order picking. That's up from a figure of 10,000 that founder and CEO Jeff Bezos projected this past May.
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