Saturday, November 4, 2023

NY Times makes fun of Amazon's drone delivery service

I didn't realize it ever passed the hypothetical phase:

Amazon started thinking really long term. It envisioned, and got a patent for, a drone resupply vehicle that would hover in the sky at 45,000 feet. That’s above commercial airplanes, but Amazon said it could use the vehicles to deliver customers a hot dinner.


years later, drone delivery is a reality — kind of — on the outskirts of College Station, Texas, northwest of Houston. That is a major achievement for a program that has waxed and waned over the years and lost many of its early leaders to newer and more urgent projects.

Yet the venture as it currently exists is so underwhelming that Amazon can keep the drones in the air only by giving stuff away. Years of toil by top scientists and aviation specialists have yielded a program that flies Listerine Cool Mint Breath Strips or a can of Campbell’s Chunky Minestrone With Italian Sausage — but not both at once — to customers as gifts. If this is science fiction, it’s being played for laughs.


While it’s cool to have stuff literally land on your driveway, at least the first few times, there are many hurdles to getting stuff this way.

Only one item can be delivered at a time. It can’t weigh over five pounds. It can’t be too big. It can’t be something breakable, since the drone drops it from 12 feet. The drones can’t fly when it is too hot or too windy or too rainy.


The incentives, however, kept coming. The couple got an email the other day from Amazon pushing Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter, which usually costs $5.38 but was a “free gift” while supplies lasted. They ordered it, and a little while later a drone dropped a big box containing a small jar. Amazon said “some promotional items” are being offered “as a welcome.”


[A neighbor] also ordered the free Skippy peanut butter but forgot to put out the landing target, so the drone went away.