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Drones Rising as Amazon CEO Hails Parcel Delivery Milestone

The widespread use of commercial drones has just come a step closer after Amazon made its first delivery to an actual customer.

The historic event occurred in England, though there is speculation that Donald Trump’s pledge to loosen regulation for business could translate to a faster opening of U.S. skies to drone use.

Potential operational benefits aren’t limited to the retail sector, where applications are obvious. Drone technology also promises to revolutionize industries from construction to energy by making it easier to gather intelligence over vast geographic areas, facilitating property and equipment inspections and maintenance checks.

Drones are “right at the heart of changing business models,” according to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, who recently told a conference in New Orleans that CEOs must take the lead in drone technology.

“We look forward to working with Elaine Chao and her team on policies that promote innovation and allow the drone market to flourish in a responsible and safe manner.

Amazon is among companies including Google-owner Alphabet that have been testing drone deliveries for years.

“First ever #AmazonPrimeAir customer delivery is in the books,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tweeted Wednesday. Bezos said it took 13 minutes to deliver one of Amazon’s TV streaming devices and a bag of popcorn to a house near Cambridge on December 7.

Interestingly, the Twitter post was made just hours before Bezos walked into a high-profile meeting between Trump and other tech CEOs in Manhattan.

The company claims it conducted the trial in the UK because regulation in the U.S. is too tough. Currently, drones in America must remain in the physical sight of drivers. Domino’s Pizza Enterprises recently conducted what it claimed to be the world’s first pizza delivery by drone in New Zealand.

It’s not yet clear what position a Trump administration will take on commercial drone use, though the president-elect’s appointment of Elaine Chao to lead the Department of Transport has sparked some optimism in drone circles. Chao has taken a business-friendly approach to regulation in previous roles.

“Secretary Chao is a proven leader, and we are encouraged by her long-held approach to balanced regulation,” Kara Calvert, head of the Drone Manufacturers Alliance, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with her and her team on policies that promote innovation and allow the drone market to flourish in a responsible and safe manner.”

Amazon has posted a video of the test delivery on its website, which can be viewed in full here. In future, the company said thousands of items would be delivered from fulfillment centers, located “just over the horizon” from customers’ homes.

“We’re starting with two customers now and in the coming months we’ll offer participation to dozens of customers living within several miles of our UK facility, and then growing to hundreds more,” the company said. “After that, well it’d be easy to say the sky’s the limit, but that’s not exactly true anymore, is it?”

About Ross Kelly

Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.