Amazon’s Drone Fleet Delivers What Bezos Wants: An Image of Ingenuity

by Brad Stone, BusinessWeek  |  published on December 2, 2013

Amazon Drone
In his 2010 internal “Amazon.Love” memo to senior executives, Amazon (AMZN) Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos identified a serious problem that can plague big, successful companies: They tend to be feared and, in some quarters, hated. Retailers in particular often engender anxiety as they displace smaller, sympathetic competitors and as the frugality that pervades their operations starts to look suspiciously to some like exploitation of their own workers. Bezos had an answer to the perennial big-company image problem. “Risk taking is cool,” he wrote. “Inventing is cool.”

The memo—excerpted in my book about Amazon—was written more than three years ago but it perfectly captures current Amazon’s conundrum. The company is on track to record $75 billion in sales this year, and by most accounts it is winning the e-commerce holiday war. For today’s online spending spree known as Cyber Monday, Amazon plans to take 300 orders a second. Yet criticisms abound: Workers in Germany are striking, and a recent investigation by the BBC suggested there are physical and psychological consequences to the menial labor required of workers in Amazon warehouses.

So the decision by Bezos and his colleagues on Sunday to reveal the company’s latest lofty goal of delivering packages via unmanned aerial vehicles seems like a characteristic retort, directing the spotlight elsewhere. In a largely flattering segment on 60 Minutes, Bezos allowed correspondent Charlie Rose to tour a 1.2 million-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center and then pitched an eye-popping service called Amazon Prime Air. An army of small autonomous octocopters, Bezos told Rose, will one day leave Amazon warehouses, take to the skies, and transport packages up to 10 miles away, effortlessly dropping into customers’ picturesque backyards to deliver a single order.

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