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The Amazon Drones – a cold launch

Until the craziness started, it was just an average March day at Amazon’s Fairbanks, Alaska warehouse. It was 9:37 am local time on March 4, 2027, and the delivery drones were entering their seventh year of operation. The drones were a lifesaver for remote locations such as Fairbanks, and had improved Amazon’s delivery time substantially while reducing costs.

George, the only employee at the Fairbanks warehouse, was watching several computer monitors that showed the robot and drone activity. He saw a notification that a new software update had been pushed out to the drones…and then he noticed something strange on the map screen. Some of the drones appeared to have changed direction. In fact, George realized, ALL of the drones had changed direction…and were all heading directly south.

The same scene was being replicated at Amazon warehouses all over the world. The drones were going all over the place. While drones in western North America tended to head south, drones in other parts of the world headed in different directions.

Eventually, after an hour or so, the drones stopped. Amazon’s current generation of drones had a maximum range of 50 miles, so as the drones lost power, they dropped down and landed. Of course, if the drones were flying in more populous areas, then more drones would be dropping. There were huge piles of Amazon merchandise bobbing in the ocean 50 miles south of Los Angeles, for example.

Meanwhile, back in Fairbanks, George’s screen was filled with error messages. “Could not reach lat -147.683029 long 64.848937,” one of them read.

As all of this was occurring, Amazon’s software development facilities, housed in a secret location outside of North America, continued to operate normally. The only hint of trouble came when a software developer went up to the cubicle of a co-worker. “Hey, Marissa,” asked the developer. “The latitude lines are the ones that go north and south…right?”

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