Google Challenges Amazon For Drone Supremacy

Need a tube of toothpaste, but don’t want to wait? Google wants to drone that to you, the Mountain View-based technology giant announced today.

Google follows Amazon in announcing that it is building consumer delivery-facing drone technology. Amazon previously disclosed that it is working to build drones that can deliver small parcels to shoppers.

The two companies have differing visions, however. Google’s plan appears slanted towards incredibly quick delivery, perhaps in as little as two minutes, a long profile in The Atlantic indicated. Amazon, instead, is focusing on a timeframe closer to thirty minutes.

I must admit I’m skeptical Google can execute a two-minute delivery of anything with a drone. Item picking, item loading, flight time, and delivery have time requirements that can be reduced through supply chain efficiency and the like, but only so far. Amazon, on the other, has more experience in sourcing a plethora of goods, and getting them shipped, and has a far higher time expectation.

Other differences exist: Google’s drones lower goods to the ground from above, while Amazon’s land, at least in their current forms.

Non-military drones remain a nascent area of technology, though one that is maturing rapidly due to corporate investment it now appears.

Google also operates a quick delivery service in certain markets that uses traditional automobiles to bring goods to consumers on a same-day basis. The firm is also working on self-driving cars, and has poured money into Uber through its venture arm. Those actions make its drone efforts more component of a broader effort into moving physical items about the world in an on-demand basis than crazy science experiment.

The Atlantic noted earlier today that Google’s technology appears to be still nascent:

The build quality is fascinating. From afar, it looks shiny and complete, and it’s loaded with custom-built electronics, but up close, it’s clear that the body itself is handmade and hacked together. Fingerprint smudges smear it. Some pieces have been professionally fabricated, it seems, but other bits look made in the on-site shop. It is a work in progress.

As such, Google’s drones are likely far from general deployment.

Both companies face a stiff regulatory climate at home — the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has clamped down on commercial drone use, while supporting a number of official drone testing sites. There has been complaint that the FAA will miss its deadlines.

Amazon has petitioned for reprieve from the restrictions.

What’s next? Google and Amazon have to not only build drone fleets that are safe, and useful enough for the average consumer to want to summon, but that are also economically viable to boot. That’s no small challenge.

Top Image Credit: Google