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Delivery drones are coming: Jeff Bezos promises half-hour shipping with Amazon Prime Air

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Amazon Prime Air
Amazon Prime Air

Jeff Bezos is nothing if not a showman. Amazon's CEO loves a good reveal, and took the opportunity afforded by a 60 Minutes segment to show off his company's latest creation: drones that can deliver packages up to 5 pounds to your house in less than half an hour. They're technically octocopters, as part of a program called "Amazon Prime Air."

A drone sits at the end of a conveyer belt, waiting to pick up a package — Bezos says 86 percent of Amazon's packages are under 5 pounds — and can carry them up to 10 miles from the fulfillment center. As soon as Amazon can work out the regulations and figure out how to prevent your packages from being dropped on your head from above, Bezos promised, there will be a fleet of shipping drones taking the sky.

The segment focused primarily on holiday shopping, particularly the annual shopping extravaganza that is Cyber Monday. It's a huge day for Amazon — more than 300 items will be ordered each second — and does much to reveal the company's true ambitions. Amazon doesn't just want to reinvent the way we shop for and buy things, it wants to upend every step of the process — including how our purchases come to us.

Charlie Rose spoke to a number of Amazon executives and employees, and toured one of the company's 96 massive warehouses, known as "fulfillment centers." Its burgeoning same-day delivery infrastructure was on full display and Rose explored the company's sprawling moves into fashion, groceries, web hosting, tablets, and strange political shows starring John Goodman.

"We like to pioneer, we like to explore. We like to go down dark alleys and find out what's on the other side."

But Jeff Bezos was predictably the star of the segment. He talked about how, 18 years ago, he'd drive packages to the post office himself and dreamed of one day owning a forklift. (Things have changed a bit since then.) He says we're four or five years from drones being able to deliver small packages right to your house, largely because the company has to work with the FAA to make sure it's legally allowed to run the Prime Air program — Amazon doesn't have Zookal's luxury of operating in Australia without the FAA's regulatory oversight.

Bezos knows there's work to do, but his overwhelming message was simple: get ready. "It will work, and it will happen, and it's going to be a lot of fun."