Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said his company is designing a fleet of octocopter drones to deliver small packages, and that this new Amazon Prime Air service might hit the skies by 2017.
The flying drones would be able to carry packages weighing 5 pounds or less to GPS coordinates without being piloted by humans, and they would be able to deliver packages up to 10 miles away, making delivery ideal in urban areas, Bezos said during an interview with CBS on Sunday.
"We can do half-hour delivery, and we can carry, we think, objects up to 5 pounds, which covers 86 percent of the items we can deliver," Bezos said. "It won't work for everything. We're not going to deliver kayaks or table saws this way."
The earliest the drones could legally be flight-ready would be 2015, since the Federal Aviation Administration is still developing rules to allow companies to use drones, Bezos said. The Amazon founder is "an optimist," so he told CBS he believes the Prime Air service could be ready to make deliveries "in four or five years."
A post on Amazon's website made an even more ambitious prediction: "We'll be ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place."
The FAA has a goal of allowing the nonmilitary use of drones in U.S. airspace by 2015, and the agency published a report in November including some guidelines for that plan. The federal agency currently prohibits companies from using them unless they have approval for specific test sites.
Amazon boomed by improving the online shopping experience by offering competitive prices and shipping deals. The company sold approximately $61 billion worth of products in 2012. This high ride for Amazon can't last forever, Bezos said, because even the best companies have their business models disrupted by a new idea, so projects including Prime Air are efforts to keep the company innovative.
"Amazon will be disrupted one day," Bezos said. "Companies come and go."