Amazon announced Prime Air and posted a page with four frequently asked questions, three of which are asked and answered an awful lot like the “what’s Amazon’s biggest weakness” and “Amazon’s biggest weakness is that we love consumer’s TOO much” BS you often see at bad interviews.
Here, then, are my actual questions:
How close to a distribution center do I have to live in order to qualify for Prime Air delivery?
I’ve read that the answer to this is that you’ll have to live within a 10 mile radius of an Amazon distribution center in order to qualify for Air Prime delivery. In other words, if a given distribution center is the hub of an imaginary circle, you’ll have to live within 10 miles in any direction of that hub.
I’m terrible at math, but came up with this:
Amazon has around 39 distribution centers which translates to a Prime Air delivery zone of approximately 1225 square miles. There are 3.794 million square miles in the US. That’s an Air Prime reach of roughly .03 percent.
Granted, a great deal of the US isn’t populated, but even with that in mind (unless the 10 mile radius information is wrong) most people simply won’t be able to take advantage of this unless Amazon goes crazy with new distribution centers.
What do we do with the yellow plastic tubs that packages are delivered in?
Surely we don’t have to ship those back to Amazon? That would negate the green benefits that Bezos highlighted. Do they pile up in our houses over the years?
What’s the expected cost?
Knowing Amazon, Air Prime is going to be free to anyone who pays the yearly fee to be an Amazon Prime subscriber, but I still think that at some point the cost of Prime is going to go up. Something has got to give.
As more and more features are added to prime, Amazon stands to lose more money. At this point, 2-day shipping is free, some books are free, a lot of instant movies and TV shows are free, and so on. All of those services cost Amazon money. Some of the services are interesting to me, others not so much. Does Prime at some point become a la carte? $79 per year gets you any three services? $200 a year for everything?
How many drones can operate at one time?
As neat as the test video looks, a controlled test isn’t the same thing as hundreds of orders coming in at one time with overlapping flight paths and delivery zones.
What about congested urban areas?
Less populated areas are probably easier to target, but less likely to be near a distribution center. Populated areas might be in an Air Prime delivery zone but could be logistical nightmares: More people to injure. Power lines to avoid. Delivery targets that simply may not exist. Birds. How can Amazon possibly account for all those factors?
Perhaps Bezos has already solved these problems, but when their idea of a frequently asked question is “is this science fiction” and the answer to that question is “oh, it’s real, bitches” with no real explanation for the optimism, it’s hard to take Bezos seriously — especially when the earliest possible timeline appears to be at least two years out.
Bezos is a marketing genius, it would seem. He’s announced something so cool that those of us with valid questions are immediately chastised for being downers. If, in two years, nothing materializes, Amazon will likely have moved on to the next big promise.