The ex-COO of Alphabet’s drone spinoff says Amazon’s recent FAA approval helps the whole industry, but regular deliveries in cities aren’t coming ‘any time soon’ (GOOGL)

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Amazon was just granted Federal Aviation Administration approval to start conducting deliveries by drone, and it could put pressure on rivals such Alphabet-owned Wing, which got the FAA go-ahead last year and has been testing its service in the US and Australia.

But according to Wing’s ex-chief operating officer Faisal Masud, who helped oversee Wing’s launch as an independent business under Alphabet, Amazon’s entry into this space may be a good thing for its Google-backed rival.

“I think Amazon coming in helps the industry, frankly, and unlocks more and more availability for people to understand what drones can do for them,” he told Business Insider.

Masud, who worked across a number of roles at Amazon for several years, joined Wing in 2018 as COO when it was still a part of Alphabet’s moonshot division, X. Last year, he moved into an advisory role at the company before departing this past July.

Masud spoke highly of Wing’s efforts to get ahead in this space, but warned that it will be a long time before delivery drones really take off.

“Unfortunately, I don’t see drone deliveries getting to massive scale any time soon,” he said. “Just because of the regulatory environments. It’s not going to be an uphill battle, but it’s going to take time. There are so many levels of approvals needed.”

Amazon’s drone dreams have certainly taken a long time to get off the ground. Jeff Bezos announced plans to build delivery drones back in 2013 during a “60 Minutes” TV segment.

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Led by Jeff Wilke, the Amazon drone group had ballooned to almost 1,000 employees as of June, according to a Business Insider investigation.  Wing’s team size is “much smaller” than Amazon, said Masud. The company declined to give an exact employee number when asked. 

That could put the pressure on Wing, but Masud said the two have somewhat different missions. Wing is more interested in partnering with retailers to deliver food, medicine, and specific items, he said, while Amazon is pushing for a general package delivery drone service – although one that will obviously have limits (a new couch might be out of the question).

“I think Wing embraces Amazon,” said Masud. “Wing has no concerns with Amazon, because Amazon is a package delivery approach.”

But urban delivery will be a big hurdle for any drone delivery company. The permissions granted to both Amazon and Wing permit testing only in rural areas, and even then there are tight restrictions.

“I just don’t see any path for urban [deliveries] at this point,” said Masud. “It’s so complicated. But for rural and semi-rural and deep suburban areas, this could be a game-changer.”

The pandemic has at least partly proven out this theory. In April, Wing reported an increase in customer demand in deliveries of toothpaste, toilet paper and more at its testing area of Christiansburg, Virginia.

“We always felt that suburbs and rural areas of the country are always sort of the second or third in line when it comes to any sort of innovation,” said …read more

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Source:: Businessinsider – Tech


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