Amazon testing delivery by drone, CEO tells 60 Minutes

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Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos said on the CBS TV news show 60 Minutes Sunday that the world’s largest Internet retailer is testing delivering packages using drones.

The big “surprise” from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on 60 Minutes tonight was that Amazon has been screwing around with octocopters that deliver goods in “under 30 minutes” from distribution centers to you front step.

The idea would be to deliver packages as quickly as possible using the small, unmanned aircraft, the CEO said.

The idea would be to deliver packages as quickly as possible using the small, unmanned aircraft, through a service the company is calling Prime Air, the CEO said. Check out the video here.

Bezos played a demo video on 60 Minutes that showed how these aircraft, also known as octocopters, will pick up packages in small yellow buckets at Amazon’s fulfillment centers and fly through the air to deliver items to customers after they hit the buy button online at Amazon.com.

The goal of the new delivery system is to get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less, the world’s largest Internet retailer said.

Putting Prime Air into commercial use will take “some number of years” as Amazon develops the technology further and waits for the Federal Aviation Administration to come up with rules and regulations, the company added.

Bezos told 60 Minutes that the service could be up and running in three to four years — although he noted that he is an optimist when it comes to such things.

Drones have mostly been used by the U.S. military to shoot missiles at enemy combatants in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the cost of these unmanned aircraft has dropped precipitously in recent years, making them more accessible to commercial users, such as companies, small businesses and entrepreneurs.

However, the FAA currently limits the use of drones in the U.S. to hobbyists, meaning the devices cannot be used in return for payment. The regulator said recently that it plans to have regulations governing commercial use in place by 2015.

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