An example of truth being stranger than fiction? During a 60 Minutes interview, Jeff Bezos (AMZN) states Amazon is experimenting with fulfilling small orders (5 pounds or less) using autonomous drone aircraft. The drone service, called Prime Air (video), is expected to go live in 4-5 years.
Bezos hopes the drones will allow Amazon to deliver goods within 30 minutes. "I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not."
The initiative is bound to face some regulatory challenges; FAA rules for drone flights in U.S. airspace are expected to be ready in 2015. There's also the question of how effective the service will be in densely-populated urban areas.
But if Amazon pulls it off on a large scale, it would give the company's same-day delivery efforts (bolstered by AmazonFresh) a boost as it contends with rivals (such as Google and eBay) who are partnering with major retail chains to enable same-day.
As the Kiva Systems acquisition demonstrated, Amazon is a fan of using robotics to improve fulfillment times and efficiency. And as its recent USPS Sunday-delivery deal showed, the company doesn't mind spending heavily to achieve those goals.