Some neighborhoods near Seattle, Wash., may soon see a cooler-sized robot meandering through the streets, delivering Amazon packages. On January 23, Amazon’s Blog Day One announced that, as they continually invest in new technologies, Amazon is rolling out a brand new one. Amazon Scout is a new, fully electric delivery system, “Designed to safely get packages to customers using autonomous delivery devices.”
Scout joins the ranks of some of Amazon’s most recent innovations. Amazon is intent on pushing the envelope in terms of operations to benefit customers. Especially when it comes to delivery speed.
How Scout works
Customers in the test area can continue to order from Amazon as usual. Through the mobile app or desktop site, and with all of the expected delivery options, such as Prime, One-Day, etc. The only difference is one of the six new Scout devices may deliver their orders. Scout will start by delivering packages on Monday through Friday, during daylight hours only.
Amazon developed Scout at its research and development facility with specific safety technology in mind. Scout can navigate around pedestrians, pets, and anything in its path. In the press release, Amazon welcomed Scout to its “ growing suite of innovative delivery solutions for customers.” They “look forward to taking the learnings from this first neighborhood so Amazon Scout can, over time, provide even more sustainability and convenience to customer deliveries.”
Amazon’s drone program
Some innovation, however, has taken longer than expected. In 2013, Amazon surprised the world, announcing the development of drone use for delivery in a 60 Minute segment. In the interview, Jeff Bezos said drones would be capable of carrying up to five pounds of items, and touted the idea of 30-minute delivery, in the next “four or five years.”
But it’s now 2019. Though drone technology, in general, has come a long way in the half decade since the unveiling, the sky is remarkably free of drones carrying Amazon packages. These days, Amazon calls the drone program Prime Air.
Amazon has run into a number of hurdles getting the program off the ground. These include safety and privacy issues, as well as FAA restrictions on drones and their operation, which are notoriously conservative. According to a December 2018 AP article, Amazon spokeswoman Kristen Kish said Amazon is still committed to the goal of package delivery in 30 mins or less. The AP reported: “The Seattle-based online retail giant says it has drone development centers in the United States, Austria, France, Israel and the United Kingdom.”
In 2016, Amazon took to the skies another way, and launched Amazon One in the US. A Boeing 767 with Amazon branding was the first specifically deployed to handle fast Amazon deliveries. Over the past few years, Amazon has gradually expanded the cargo fleet to include 40 planes. Amazon Air is based in Hebron, Kentucky. The location near the Cincinnati, Ohio, hub allows Amazon to more easily orchestrate delivery of more than 608 million packages per year.
Amazon’s priorities are notoriously customer-centric. As Amazon Prime continues to grow and expand, and customers become accustomed to faster and more efficient delivery, look for Amazon to continue raising the bar on operations innovation. With the announcement of Scout, we get to see Amazon take another novel direction in the road to autonomous delivery.