Tonight on CBS' "60 Minutes," Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, sat down for an extended interview. Amazon is an online superstore that has morphed into a technological powerhouse on so many other levels -- tablets and eReaders included, that they're effecting a dramatic change in the way people shop. The company has historically operated on thin profits and a volume model and there is no doubt, Amazon is a disruptive force in etail. Amazon also typically invests excess cash into new fulfillment centers and other R&D projects. Why? So that Amazon itself doesn't get disrupted by whatever big innovation is bound to come next.
One way to stay ahead of the curve is to innovate in shipping, which Amazon has done through its 2-day "Prime" service. But clearly, having just about everything under the sun to your door in 48 hours isn't good enough for Mr. Bezos. He's aiming for 30 minutes or less, just like your local pizzaria. During the interview, Bezos provided a sneak peek at Amazon Prime Air, which relies on drones to deliver packages under five pounds to locales in around 30 to 60 minutes. Drones have become quite popular, and quite cheap. They're also very intelligent, and with a GPS address and a full charge, it's not unfathomable for this plan to turn into reality.
In fact, Bezos says that Amazon is striving to make it happen. It'll take until at least 2015, because that's how long it would take Amazon to get FAA clearance. But, there are other hurdles as well. What happens if the drone hits a tree? What about bad weather? What if it drops the package? What if theives swipe packages out of mid-air? All of these, and more, are on Amazon's mind. But, Amazon assures us the project is real, and it's moving towards bringing it to fruition.
If this pans out, it will surely up-end the shipping industry once again. Just imagine a last-second, Christmas-morning delivery from Amazon via a Prime Air Drone? That kind of magic could even upstage Santa himself.