Last week saw a flurry of activity in the robotics world. There was RoboBusiness in the Bay, ROSCon in New Orleans, and Amazon’s Delivering the Future event in Seattle. I chose to attend the latter, having gained valuable insights from the 2022 event held at a fulfillment center outside of Boston.
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This year’s event spanned two days. The first day took place inside the Spheres, the large, glass pair of geodesic domes located outside Amazon’s South Lake Union headquarters. These spaces serve as functional greenhouses across multiple floors, making for a noticeable change in temperature compared to the typical Seattle October weather. Nevertheless, it’s quite a unique experience to be inside a humid glass structure while it’s raining—a chance that comes around only about 150 days a year.
This year, Amazon made several significant robotics announcements, with the Prime Air service taking the lead. Starting this year, Amazon Pharmacy will deliver medications via drones to customers in College Station, Texas.
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In the coming year, the service will expand to a third U.S. city, as well as locations in the U.K. and Germany that are yet to be disclosed. The service has had its share of challenges in the past, including layoffs in 2020 and company-wide job cuts earlier this year. Amazon is taking a cautious approach, currently rolling out the service in only one city in Texas and another in California.
Besides the challenges of scaling, there’s also a need to navigate through a multitude of regulations. Amazon has collaborated with local and national authorities to ensure compliance with same-day delivery services. In many ways, this is a new and uncertain territory, and we can expect some hiccups along the path to a potential future where delivery drones from companies like Amazon and Alphabet’s Wing become a common sight in the skies above us.
One advantage Amazon has in the pharmacy sector is that it doesn’t handle narcotics, so opioids won’t be airborne. Additionally, the company is introducing the new MK30 drone, which it claims is much quieter than the previous model. Once again, this is a crucial factor if we envision these devices buzzing around in the sky.
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