Date
15 December 2017
Amazon's prototype Octocopter is shown in a state of rest. It will whirl into life to make deliveries when Jeff Besos gives the green light. Photo: Bloomberg
Amazon's prototype Octocopter is shown in a state of rest. It will whirl into life to make deliveries when Jeff Besos gives the green light. Photo: Bloomberg

What a drone! Guess who just copied who?

Jeff Bezos drew a few doubters when he announced the next big thing for Amazon: drones.

It was not enough that the founder of the world’s largest online retailer had shown up his critics by making a success of e-reader Kindle and landing the Washington Post in what is now considered a piece of savvy dealmaking.

But drones? Is he out of his depth?

Bezos’ vision of the remotely controlled flying craft is nothing like the one the US military has been using to deadly effect and precision in taking out terrorist targets around the world.

It’s more like an overgrown dragonfly that is as accurate but less threatening. It drops deliveries with pinpoint precision.

The theory is that an army of these smart couriers will zip deliveries from Amazon’s product sorters into doorsteps without anything being mislaid, broken or lost. It’s the new face of something called value-added service.

Now it appears that even as Bezos was busy reassuring skeptics about his “Octocopter” deliveries, a team of scientists at the US Navy research center was working on a US$100 million project to allow the US Marines to use a special app to summon an airdrop of essential supplies, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The mission-critical operation will be carried out by a full-sized helicopter converted into a pilotless, autonomous flying machine.

And in a further validation of Bezos’ genius, the scientists acknowledged that they got the idea from Amazon, except that the deliveries will be a little different — as different as dropping 5,000 pounds of live ammunition, batteries and water from shooting a parcel into an open mailbox.

“You’re not going to find this one in the App Store that’s for sure,” says Max Snell, head of the program at the Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Virginia. 

But you could find its smaller twin in Amazon anytime soon.

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