Amazon drone delivery? Jeff Bezos' timeline is past due

Amazon has fallen short of CEO Jeff Bezos’ 2013 goal of adding aerial drones to its delivery routes within five years amid a host of logistical challenges, but the e-commerce giant says it hasn’t given up on the technology.

Bezos told CBS’ “60 Minutes” in 2013 that Amazon would have drones capable of delivering packages to customers within “four, five years.” However, the Associated Press reported Monday that various issues, including concerns about public safety, data privacy and battery limitations, have kept Amazon from entering the tightly regulated commercial drone space.

“We are committed to making our goal of delivering packages by drones in 30 minutes or less a reality,” Amazon spokeswoman Kristen Kish told AP. The company has yet to revise its timeline for implementing drone technology.

Amazon’s efforts to integrate drones for delivery have occurred alongside rapid growth for the e-commerce platform. In the last several years, Amazon has entered the grocery sector with its acquisition of the Whole Foods chain, experimented with brick-and-mortar formats and made forays into the medical space by buying online pharmacy PillPack.

Drones would likely make Amazon less reliant on third-party carriers, such as the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx and UPS, to complete “last mile” deliveries to customers. President Trump has been highly critical of Amazon’s relationship with the USPS, which recently proposed rate hikes that could cost Amazon an additional $1 billion per year in shipping costs.

Commercial drones are tightly regulated by the U.S. government. The number of commercial drones in use is expected to grow from roughly 110,000 at present to about 450,000 by 2022, according to government statistics cited by AP.

Some carriers, including UPS and DHL Express, have conducted pilot programs for drone deliveries, but efforts to test drones are subject to approval by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which enforces strict rules for such trials.