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How Amazon’s Drone Delivery Could Disrupt the Traditional Supply Chain

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These days, new advances in technology are constantly changing the way society functions. This may soon include the manner and speed at which packages are delivered. In December, Amazon delivered its first Prime order by drone in England. A device once viewed as a toy, drone delivery could majorly upset the supply chain in its current state.

Drone Delivers Prime Order in England

On Dec. 7, 2016, Amazon’s Prime Air service delivered an Amazon Fire TV and a bag of popcorn to a residence within five miles of its Cambridgeshire drone testing facility. The test was approved by Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority, and arrived just 13 minutes after the order was placed.

Designed to deliver packages up to five pounds within a 30-minute window, Prime Air is still in the testing phase. Currently, only two customers have received packages delivered by drones, but the company is hoping to expand this list in the coming months. There will be no extra charge for delivery by drone, but the service will only be available during the daytime and is dependent upon weather.

Initially, Prime Air delivery will only be available to customers in rural areas, but the company plans to expand to the suburbs, and eventually urban areas. This service is only available in the U.K. at present, but Amazon hopes to move into the U.S. and other markets.

Wal-Mart Plans to Use Drones in Warehouses

In June 2016, Wal-Mart announced it was six to nine months from employing drones in its warehouses. Controlled remotely, drones can capture 30 frames per second of products in warehouse aisles, and alert the user when items are stocked incorrectly or running low.

Shekar Natarajan, Walmart’s vice president of last mile and emerging sciences told Reuters the use of drones could decrease the tedious practice of checking warehouse inventory to one day — quite a drop from an entire month in its current manual state. The drones have been outfitted with a custom-built camera and technology designed to fit the specific needs of the retailer.

Checking warehouse inventory isn’t the only job Wal-Mart is eyeing for drones. In October 2015, the company also applied to for permission to test drones for curbside pickup and home delivery. Those services haven’t been greenlighted by U.S. regulators just yet, but they might be coming in the future.

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