When I read this press release yesterday from Amazon that it is exploring parcel delivery by drone, I found it hard not to check the calendar that it wasn't April Fool’s day. Joking aside, and while it’s great that UK Government has partnered with Amazon to promote drone technology, there’s a very long way to go before Air Prime will be used for anything other than a small number of very high value deliveries. Reading more closely, it appears that actually Amazon will be carrying out trials with specific authorisations from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority and other agencies, which doesn’t sound like much of a partnership to me. And while the tech is undeniably cool, there are some real practical and economic challenges that will have to be solved before this is anything other than a niche application of the technology.

Taking just one example, where’s the infrastructure? Setting up the loading and dispatching side sounds easy, but once the drone gets to the destination, where does it leave the parcel? Recipients will need a dedicated safe landing/drop off point, delivery will need to be confirmed, and the parcel will need protection from the elements. The planned range of 10 miles tells me that this will very much be an urban delivery mechanism. Which might work for deliveries to enterprises, who could invest in the necessary infrastructure, but urban residents will not find this so easy – a delivery of pampers dropped into my back garden where they can get rained on is not my idea of convenience.

This could be an interesting alternative delivery mechanism for high value business parcels, but it will be a long time, if ever, before this replaces conventional home deliveries.

Full release here: Amazon and UK Government Aim for the Sky with Partnership on Drones