Flying robots for the masses: How Bezos’ Amazon Drone could be what Steve Jobs was to personal computers

jeffbezosIt’s unrealistic to assume that once 2015 hits, Amazon Drones will take off through the skies, single-handedly bringing a stop to brown UPS trucks.

But when they do take off, it won’t just be Amazon’s drones doing home delivery. Soon enough, Walmart will have a fleet of drones. Target too. Domino’s kinda sorta already has one. Even UPS quickly followed Amazon’s big reveal, reminding the world that they too are working on delivery drones.

Amazon will undoubtedly deliver packages via drones, and I’m sure it’ll happen in our lifetime. But will they corner the market in drone deliveries? Doubt it.

Where Amazon can in fact corner the market is in drone manufacturing. If this all plans out, I predict Amazon will move from enterprise (drone delivery) to manufacturing Amazon-brand drones that consumers can use themselves.

How will Amazon succeed at manufacturing consumer-level drones? Amazon has the brand recognition and economy of scale to undercut current drone makers if they wanted to be a part of the consumer-drone manufacturing market. Look at Kindle. Or purely the fact that with just a short clip on 60 Minutes, they convinced the world of the possible reality of flying packages.

There currently aren’t many ways for an average person to fly a drone safely, cheaply and immediately out of the box. Other than the Chinese-based company DJI and Parrot AR.Drone, the consumer drone market is rather nonexistent. Today’s drones are limited to an upper class of people who can afford to spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy toy for gathering aerial images or as a cool party trick. Amazon is the perfect candidate for popularizing mainstream drones.

Currently the majority of drone use is restricted to huge enterprise operations, mainly the military. Major corporations like Monsanto use drones to count stalks and monitor plant health, and Matternet is working on using drones for medicine delivery to hard-to-reach parts of the globe.

Other than that, drones are limited to the tinkering tables of hobbyists in their garage, surviving because of a strong Maker community and influenced by sites like DIY Drones.

That’s also how personal computers started. Just like drones, computers used to be reserved for hobbyists and enterprise.

People didn’t initially think they needed a computer, but now there is a good chunk of the population, myself included, who I don’t think can function without a computer. A computer has replaced a myriad of formerly everyday functions – editing photos in a darkroom, sending birthday cards, paying bills, getting news, etc. Now anyone has access to a computer through the public library. Heck, I bet you’re reading this on your personal computer.

Image courtesy of Amazon

Image courtesy of Amazon

With the announcement of Amazon Prime Air, Bezos has shown how he could be the Jobsian character, successfully marketing drones to the masses.

I don’t think many people’s lives would change if drones simply disappeared today. But a drone has the power to be a ubiquitous tool in the next few decades. And just like your life would change if you no longer had access to a computer, I think the same could be said of a drone years from now.

Maybe my mom can use a drone to somehow help her garden. Maybe your sister can use a drone to somehow improve her technique during soccer practice. Maybe your kids can use a drone to make sure they walk home from school safely.

Is it more of a stretch to have equally as many drones as there are computers in the hands of Americans? Probably.

But it’s still possible. It just requires a bit of imagination.
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