Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos clearly knows how to spring a good surprise. His latest came as part of a flattering interview on CBS's "60 Minutes" ahead of Cyber Monday: His internet retailing giant is testing plans to use drones to deliver purchases weighing up to five pounds within 30 minutes.
The futuristic service, dubbed Amazon Prime Air, would use unmanned aerial vehicles guided by GPS coordinates to deliver items from fulfillment centers to customers' homes within a ten-mile radius. Bezos warned interviewer Charlie Rose that the plans are still a long way from becoming reality — four to five years perhaps, but possibly as early as 2015. The program still requires approval by the Federal Aviation Administration, among other practical concerns. "Putting Prime Air into commercial use will take some number of years as we advance the technology and wait for the necessary FAA rules and regulations," Amazon's preview page for the service says.
Comedy site Daily Beefing had posted a report in May joking that Amazon, "as part of its strategy to upgrade its delivery capability," would buy 5,000 decommissioned military drones that the government no longer needs as it winds down the war on terror. “Having our own fleet of UAVs will enable us to speed up delivery times and significantly lower operating costs,” the fake report had Bezos say.
Bezos and Amazon aren't joking, though. "It looks like science fiction, but it's real," the company says in its FAQ. "One day, Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today." As if the U.S. Postal Service doesn't have enough problems already. Message to the Postmaster General: Amazon giveth and Amazon taketh away.
The "60 Minutes" announcement, unsurprisingly, set Twitter ablaze with the usual mix of wonderment and snark. Watch Amazon's Prime Air video below and then check out some of the best tweets in response to Bezos's announcement:
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