As Amazon steps up tests in the UK, will drone deliveries really catch on among consumers?

Drone in Flight
Amazon is promising super-fast delivery with its drone fleet (Source: Getty)

Nadav Rosenberg, partner at Entrepreneur First, says Yes.

Two years ago, drone deliveries were a consumer gimmick; a PR stunt designed to push Amazon’s forward thinking brand. But this recent development is different. Having gained approval from the Civil Aviation Authority to test drones outside of warehouses, with special concessions including operating drones without a direct line of sight, Amazon is taking its first stride in bringing drone technology to the consumer. No longer can and will drone technology be solely for military or surveillance use. This is something that we have seen in the four drones-related companies that have been created on the Entrepreneur First programme too. Amazon has thus far spearheaded an on-demand culture; the estimated 57-61m Prime and Prime Now customers are evidence of this. Drone technology will enable faster, cheaper and potentially more environmentally friendly ways to get products into the hands of consumers. Whether the technology will be up to scratch within the next three years is an entirely different issue.

Tom Standage, deputy editor of The Economist, says No.

No – not with flying drones, at least. Amazon’s technology is very clever, but not everyone has a back garden a drone can land in. Flying drones can fall on your head if they go wrong. Some items are too heavy to be carried by them. Airborne delivery might not be economical except for expensive items. And there are privacy worries: drones need cameras to navigate and to avoid obstacles, but people don’t want to be spied on. But there is a way to avoid these problems: ground drones, dog-sized machines that roll along the pavement. They show up outside your house and send you a message, and you unlock them with your smartphone. They can’t drop on your head. They can carry heavier items. They are more energy efficient, which means cheaper deliveries. There are no privacy worries. Such drones are being tested by Starship Technologies right here in London, among other places. Earthbound delivery drones, not flying ones, may be the ones that actually take off.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

Related articles