Amazon Drone Makes Super Bowl Cameo

February 6, 2017, 6:34 PM UTC
Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Lady Gaga performs during the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl 51 Halftime Show at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello—Getty Images

As Lady Gaga belted patriotic tunes in a glittering crystalline bodysuit during the Super Bowl on Sunday night, drones from chipmaker Intel darted in synchronized flight above her as part of a light show. But Intel (INTC) wasn’t the only company to show off its flying bots that evening.

Amazon, the Seattle-based e-commerce juggernaut, featured one of its own delivery drones during a commercial for Amazon Echo, the company’s voice-controlled speaker. The “Prime Air” robot dipped into view beside an Echo, powered by Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa, during the final frames of the commercial.

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The Amazon (AMZN) ad spot opens with a close-up of a bearded man, whose fingers are coated in the messy orange cheese dust characteristic of many junk foods. He munches and proceeds, unsuccessfully, to suck his digits clean.

The jersey-wearing man then distractedly reaches his slobbered-on paws into a bowl of nachos. His couch-mate, a woman in a button-up cardigan sweater, watches in disgust.

“Alexa, reorder Doritos from Prime Air,” she commands with a sidelong glance. The scene cuts to a shot of the Echo device on a ledge beside a window.

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“Ok, look for delivery soon,” Alexa’s signature voice replies as an Amazon delivery drone appears outside.

Tempering the excitement around Amazon’s futuristic portage plans, a caption appeared at the bottom of the screen. “Prime Air is not available in some states (or any really) yet,” it read.

That’s not for lack of effort though. At the end of last year, Amazon completed its first drone deliveries in a test in Cambridge, England. The company also last year won a patent for an “airborne fulfillment center” that could help it ship goods via drone in coming years.

Unfortunately for Amazon and its rivals, like Google’s (GOOG) “Project Wing” program, though, the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States has hampered the advent of drone delivery with restrictions on unmanned aircraft operations, citing safety reasons. Las year the administration started requiring companies to keep their aerial couriers within a certain line of sight, impeding their range and the technology’s outlook.

Perhaps the Super Bowl advertisement had a subtext beyond merely drumming up interest in Amazon’s Echo devices: subtly swaying public opinion on the drone issue in the company’s favor.

Till then, it’s probably best to lay off the cheesy snacks.

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