Amazon Prime will roll out in phases.
The FAA will be cautious in permitting Prime Air to make autonomous deliveries, but that doesn’t mean that Amazon won’t soon be taking baby steps.
This is all speculation on my part. I have no factual evidence that my hypothesis is correct, just a gut feel.
Months ago I theorized that Prime Air would begin as same-day delivery in a few larger cities. This would be by controlled flights from an Amazon distribution hub to field offices where the brown trucks could finish the last mile delivery, or the customer could wait for the package at the field office. Amazon would control the takeoff and landing points, so other than VLOS (Visual Line Of Sight) required by the FAA, they could almost do this today. Just today I hear on the news that Amazon is planning to open some “brick and mortar” bookstores – which baffles the market experts. But if my theory is correct about the initial phase of Prime Air rollout is correct, then opening stores makes perfect sense. The Amazon book stores would be those landing pads for same-day delivery. Here’s how it would work. You place an order for a product and pay (dearly) for same-day delivery. The package is loaded on a drone and dispatched to the Amazon book store nearest the customer. The customer can go to the store to wait for the package, or the store can dispatch a brown van to finish the delivery to your home or office.
Phase two will be direct delivery to selected customers. Supporting this is Amazon’s recent patent application for a drone delivery “secure locker“. Corporate locations and well-heeled consumers would buy a Prime Air Secure Locker which would be located in a safe location on the customer’s property. This could be the roof of the office or an unused corner of a parking lot. The delivery would then go from the Amazon hub direct to the customer.
Phase three would occur when more technical hurdles are overcome. A customer wanting same day delivery would buy a target provided by Amazon. This target would likely have a GPS tracker that sends its precise location by SMS to Amazon, and IR beacons for precision delivery to the target.
I don’t know how close my predictions are, but it will be interesting to watch it develop over the next few years.