Amazon drones just 'PR stunt', says Ocado

Micro Electronics

by Claire Vanner| 28 February 2014

But grocery delivery service looking into using drones itself.

When Amazon declared that drones would be delivering its parcels by 2018 with a live-action demonstration in December 2013, internet shoppers were delighted with the premise.

But grocery delivery service Ocado, which has developed its own drone technology, does not see substance behind the concept of drone-to-door delivery.

"I think it's somewhat fanciful and personally I think people should view [Amazon's] announcement as being somewhat a PR stunt," Paul Clarke, director of technology for Ocado, told CBR.

"Our interest lies in other areas with drones. We have big facilities where we're looking at better tools to help maintain and oversee these big automated warehouses. One of the places we may use drones for is being able to help with the maintenance work."

Clarke said that Ocado was also looking into using robots to help manage their huge warehouses, some of which spread across four floors and have areas that are inaccessible to humans.

The drones would be able to retrieve items from hard to reach places, while Clarke said robots could take measurements, record temperature and physically fix certain problems.

"That's more our area of interest than actually to start delivering groceries to people via drones," he said.

But when it comes to the potential of Ocado deliveries appearing at customers' doors via drone, Clarke said never say never.

"We might be looking at very specialist applications, but it's not a very scalable technology at the moment.

"When you think about it, our basket order is much bigger [than Amazon's] in terms of number of items, so it's hard to see if the economics would be there. It would have to be a rather enormous drone and I don't know how you'd get that through traffic control."

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