What Amazon’s Drone Talk Teaches Us about the Future of Work

During Black Friday week, Jeff Bezos surprised CBS News anchor Charlie Rose during an interview by taking him into a room where he revealed Amazon’s latest R& D project: delivery drones. (You can see a video here.) It instantly sucked up all the headlines; some touted it as the greatest publicity stunt ever, and some bemoaned the fact that CBS News basically ran a 14-minute commercial for Amazon on the night before Cyber Monday.

This undated image provided by Amazon.com shows the so-called Prime Air unmanned aircraft project that Amazon is working on in its research and development labs. Amazon says it will take years to advance the technology and for the Federal Aviation Administration to create the necessary rules and regulations, but CEO Jeff Bezos said Sunday Dec. 1, 2013,  there's no reason Drones can't help get goods to customers in 30 minutes or less. Photo: Amazon, AP / Amazon
Image credit: Amazon.com

Other business blogs are taking the proposal seriously and opening up a debate on whether the drones could work. Amazon says that they would be programmed with GPS coordinates to fly packages less than five pounds in weight (that would cover 86 percent of Amazon’s shipments) with ten miles of an Amazon shipment hub. Of course, there are about a thousand issues to be worked out, including regulation, safety (you’d hate to have one fall out of the sky on your head, since they might weigh as much as 47 pounds), and security. Drone bandits are probably already working on hacking strategies. But how cool would it be to have what you ordered delivered to your door in 30 minutes?

Amazon has already revolutionized the way we buy everything; I confess that it’s my go-to site for any product I can’t find in a brick and mortar store. Mostly it’s because their “one-click” buying saves me so much time; my account information and all my shipping addresses (home, office, gifts) are just a click and password away.

One article on says that Amazon has to invent drones because drones could kill Amazon. Writing for Slate.com, Mattew Iglesias says, “Suppose some robotics firm somewhere develops quadrotor drones that can reliably execute parcel delivery missions over the relevant range for a metropolitan area, and the product becomes broadly commercially available. Amazon would be facing a pretty major disaster. Suddenly every Walmart and Target and Macy’s in America would be equipped with a small fleet of drones, and all the hard work Amazon’s done over the past 15 years to be the leader in online ordering and fulfillment would be for naught.”

But this is a post about the future of work, not retail. If drones are feasible and they do become a local delivery mechanism by 2020 or 2025 (most reasonable analysts’ best guess), your 10-year-old niece or nephew could be building, maintaining, programming or operating them for a living. For that matter, so could you. Finally, a way to make all of those wasted hours on your Xbox pay off.

The point is that drone jobs were not on anyone’s radar screen (pun intended) until last week.  Within a decade or so, they could be a huge part of our consumer culture. Logisticians (another job you’ve probably never heard of) are the professionals who help companies move and merchandise goods logically; they’re why you know just where to look for pasta sauce or dish soap in a grocery store. A great Forbes article on jobs of the future (written in September 2013) says that the U.S. DOL expects the market for Logisticians to grow by 26 percent by 2020 (coincidence?) and to work on projects like commercial use of drones for delivery.

The same article mentioned “ethical hacker” as a fast-growing field. These hackers are paid by companies to find security flaws in products before bad guys can.  They are an essential part of product development and launch.

Part of the challenge in preparing workers for these new jobs is in knowing what skills, materials and experience will be needed. Training centers, universities and workforce organizations struggle to keep up, trying to stay ahead of the learning curve and create training programs that meet industry needs.

How can you prepare for the jobs of the future? Next post: Essential Skills for Lifetime Employment.

3 thoughts on “What Amazon’s Drone Talk Teaches Us about the Future of Work

  1. […] Kaplan Business School in Australia sent me this cool infographic to complement my post on Amazon’s drone technology. […]


  2. […] Kaplan Business School in Australia sent me this cool infographic to complement my post on Amazon’s drone technology. […]


  3. […] my previous post, I wrote about how Amazon’s drone delivery plan might change the way you order everything in the future. Drones are just one technology that may create thousands, even millions of jobs, within the next […]


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