Amazon Drones: Grounded Before They Get a Chance to Take Off?

In a new document, the FAA places limits on using unmanned aircraft for package delivery.

Jun 25, 2014 at 7:30PM

Amazon Prime Air Drone

Amazon doesn't expect guidelines for commercial drone use before 2015. Credit:

When the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) unveiled guidelines for more tightly regulating unmanned drones on Monday, speculators wondered if's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Prime Air delivery service would be grounded. Turns they were right to fear the worst. The FAA has since clarified that commercial package delivery isn't (yet) allowed.

Hope doesn't float
If there's excessive head-shaking over the agency's decision, it's probably because it was only last month that the FAA cleared a facility in North Dakota for testing of unmanned aircraft. Most took that as a sign the agency would be quick to approve drones for package delivery and other tasks.

So much for wishful thinking.

And yet the ruling may not be targeting Amazon so much as existing commercial fliers. VentureBeat cited an expert who says the FAA is after small operators who've moved ahead without waiting for the agency to clarify its policies. Among the list: Minnesota's Lake Maid Beer Co., which has used drones to deliver beer to ice fishermen.

The hard work begins
Now, with a comprehensive document, we know that beer-by-drone isn't coming to your neighborhood anytime soon. Nor are Amazon drones:

Faa Drone Guidelines

The FAA's guidelines for unmanned model aircraft, according to a recently posted "request for comment.". Credit:

Should investors worry? I don't think so. At its page for Prime Air, Amazon is very clear that, while it holds promise, taking the service from concept to reality "will take some number of years as we advance the technology and wait for the necessary FAA rules and regulations."

In the meantime, Amazon is already at work on other ways to introduce same-day delivery to consumers who prize convenience. An in-house trucking network supports the company's AmazonFresh grocery delivery service. Other times, the e-tailer relies on contracted drivers to deliver packages directly rather than relying on either of the two major shipping services.

Same-day slugfest
Either way, Amazon is moving us toward a commerce-on-demand future that's not so different from what we get now with streamed media -- and everyone else, including the U.S. Postal Service to upstart competitors like Instacart, is along for the ride. 

Google is in on the game with a service called Shopping Express, using branded vans to pick up and deliver from a variety of retail partners. Wal-Mart's To-Go option works similarly: shop the store online, take delivery from a Wal-Mart truck. Finally, there's the aforementioned Instacart, which is reminiscent of Uber in that it arms freelance shoppers with an algorithm-powered app and an order to fill.

My point? The war to win shoppers with same-day shipping began well before Amazon introduced us to Prime Air. And it won't end when the FAA decides it's OK for a drone to drop a box on your porch.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Do you believe Amazon drones will get off the ground? Leave a comment below to let us know your take, including whether you would buy, sell, or short Amazon stock at current prices.

Your credit card may soon be completely worthless
Convenience creep is threatening all sorts of industries and paradigms. From drones supplying same-day delivery to phones that make instant e-payments, the world is changing -- fast. Will you profit when it does? You can, but you must act now. An eye-opening new presentation reveals the full story on why your credit card is about to be worthless -- and highlights one little-known company sitting at the epicenter of an earth-shaking movement that could hand early investors the kind of profits we haven't seen since the dot-com days. Click here to watch this stunning video.


Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Google (A and C class) at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool recommends and Google (A and C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of and Google (A and C class). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.


Compare Brokers