Amazon Prime Air isn’t really getting off the ground yet

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Last year Amazon promised that they would start delivering packages by air, with drones, this year. A special department was even set up for it: Amazon Prime Air. This year Amazon wanted a total of 10,000 deliveries by drones. Now, almost five months later, that goal hardly seems achievable. Amazon Prime Air operates in two locations, in Texas and California. So far this year, the service has made barely 100 drone-powered deliveries there.

Little enthusiasm from customers

So Amazon Prime Air is not really getting off the ground yet. Technically it works. This was already apparent from previous pilots and tests. So why are the number of deliveries falling short of expectations? CNBC took a look at Lockeford, California. One of the regions where Amazon Prime Air already operates.

Inquiries with companies in that region show that consumer enthusiasm to sign up for ‘drone delivery’ is (far) lagging behind expectations. Amazon predicted thousands of signups. In Lockeford there are now, almost half a year after the start, only a few dozen.

FAA Restrictions

In addition, the FAA’s rules, which monitor air safety, for flying (low) over populated areas and roads also affect the speed at which Amazon Prime Air can expand its operating area. In short, the drones are simply not allowed to fly everywhere. And without FAA approval, they must remain grounded.

Another reason the FAA is extra cautious about authorizing unmanned “package drones” has to do with previous crashes. For example, during a test in Oregon in 2021, an Amazon Drone crashed, causing a forest fire.

Scaling up takes longer than expected

Amazon itself also acknowledges that its drone delivery program is not really getting off to a good start. In a statement, the company says that “the phased process of expanding the service areas” is taking longer than expected.

In other words, the automated delivery of products is far from being ‘everyday’. After all, the driving robot Scout was also taken off the road a few months ago.

Painfully, for Amazon, competitors such as Wing (of Alphabet) and Zipline (Walmart) that provide drone deliveries are significantly more successful and thus seem to have fewer problems scaling their air delivery services.

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