On Sunday’s 60 Minutes, Bezos dragged Charlie Rose out of his black-backgrounded studio and to Amazon HQ to show off “Amazon Prime Air” octo-copters, tiny, electric drone aircraft that he believes could someday bring packages directly to customers’ homes and offices.
“I know this looks like science-fiction,” Bezos tells a jaw-dropped Rose. “It’s not. It’s early; this is still years away… we can do half-hour delivery, and we can carry objects — we think — up to five pounds, which covers 86% of the items that we deliver.”
Bezos says the current generation of test drones have a 10-mile radius from a fulfillment center. Given the growing number of Amazon warehouses out there, that would cover quite a substantial portion of some major metro areas.
“It won’t work for everything,” he admits. “We’re not going to carry kayaks or table saws this way.”
Unlike most currently operating drones that are remotely piloted by someone on the ground with a monitor and controls, these Amazon copters do the flying themselves.
“You give them instructions of which GPS coordinates to go to, and they take off and they fly to those GPS coordinates,” explains Bezos. “The hard part here is putting in all the redundancy, all the reliability, all the systems you need… this thing can’t land on somebody’s head while they’re walking around their neighborhood. That’s not good.”
He admits that the project is still years away from becoming a reality.
“I know it can’t be before 2015 because that’s the earliest that we could get the rules from the FAA,” Bezos says. “My guess is that’s pretty a little optimistic. But could it be four to five years? I think so. It will work and it will happen, and it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
Speaking of the future, Bezos confesses that while Amazon may be the unrivaled titan of e-tail today, it will someday be unseated by some punk upstart startup.
“Companies have short life spans” he says. “Amazon will be disrupted one day… I don’t worry about it because I know it’s inevitable. Companies come and go and the companies that are the shiniest and most important of any era, you wait a few decades and they’re gone.”
As for when he predicts Amazon’s fated downfall, Bezos laughs and says, “I would love for it to be after I’m dead.”