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Amazon isn't the only company looking to drone deliveries

Posting in Technology
 
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Amazon's announcement that it's working on using a drone system to deliver small packages -- the majority of Amazon's shipments -- was met with a mixture of awe, skepticism, and curiosity when Amazon CEO announced the plan for Prime Air on 60 Minutes over the weekend.

But it isn't the only major company looking into drones to take the place of delivery people. The Verge reports that UPS, the world's largest parcel service, is also testing out the idea of using small drones to deliver packages. FedEx has also discussed using unmanned aerial vehicles for delivering large planes of cargo -- a different plan than Amazon's use of octocopters to deliver packages to homes --  since at least 2009. 

And while no company has built a drone delivery system to the scale that would be required by the likes of Amazon, UPS, or FedEx, we've already seen numerous examples of drone delivery. As TechCrunch points out, Domino's showed off tests of drone pizza delivery and China-based SF Express began live trials of drone delivery earlier this year. That's being made easier in places like Australia, Canada, and China where regulations allow for some commercial drone. In the United States it will likely be longer before regulations allow for commercial drone use, even if Amazon masters the technological side of drone delivery.

So why did Amazon decide to announce its drone plans now, even though the system could be years away? As many have pointed out, the announcement could have been a way to get people talking about Amazon before one of the biggest online shopping days of the year. It certainly didn't hurt. Amazon was Cyber Monday's biggest winner with a sales jump of 46 percent. Still, a company as large as Amazon publicly announcing a drone delivery system should help draw interest of innovators and inventors which will help speed up the process of making drone delivery a reality. 

Photo: Flickr/unten44

— By on December 3, 2013, 1:40 PM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure