Amazon, the online retailing Goliath, shipped an estimated 608 million packages in 2013 [source: Bensinger and Stevens]. Most arrive by U.S. mail or a private package delivery service from Amazon's global network of fulfillment centers, shipping everything from books to diapers to 4K ultra-HD TVs. And if you're an Amazon Prime member, your packages will arrive in two days or less, at no extra cost.
But two days isn't good enough for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who envisions a new way of getting Amazon products into the hands of online shoppers – via drones, of course!
Amazon Prime Air, if ever approved by the FAA, would use autonomous drones to deliver packages weighing less than 5 pounds (2 kilograms) to your doorstep in a zippy 30 minutes or less. Eighty-six percent of goods sold on Amazon weigh less than 5 pounds, so that could be a lot of drones in space [source: Misener].
Frustrated by the FAA's slow approval process, Bezos has moved the Amazon Prime Air R&D to Canada, where testing continues on its 10th generation drone prototypes [source: Crovitz]. Meanwhile, Google X is quietly pursuing its own drone delivery program called Project Wing. And a Silicon Valley startup called Matternet is beta-testing a drone system that runs on fixed routes between base stations in places lacking roads [sources: Madrigal, Nicas].