Speedy delivery: Amazon launches 1-hour service in Miami area

Amazon Prime Now offers a selection of items that can be delivered, like lunch, in a brown bag within an hour.
Amazon Prime Now offers a selection of items that can be delivered, like lunch, in a brown bag within an hour. Miami Herald Staff

Update: Amazon has expanded delivery service to these zip codes: 33131, 33186, 33172, 33182, 33184, 33174, 33122, 33144, 33126, 33125, 33155, 33134, 33135, 33136, 33142, 33145, 33128, 33133, 33127, 33130, 33129, 33137, 33132.

Need toothpaste, cereal or swimming goggles on the fly? No worries, Amazon has your back.

On Thursday, the online retailer introduced its one- to two-hour delivery service, Prime Now, in 10 ZIP codes in Miami-Dade County, serving parts of Doral, Sweetwater, West Miami, Kendall and Miami.

And its goal of delivering those packages within 30 minutes via drones moved a step closer Thursday, when the Federal Aviation Administration granted the company an experimental airworthiness certificate, which allows Amazon to fly its unmanned aircraft for research and development and crew training.

But the green light to use the remotely controlled miniature aircraft comes with conditions, according to the FAA. Amazon can only fly the aircraft in the daylight, keep the flights at 400 feet or below, and the pilot actually flying the aircraft has to have a private pilot’s certificate, along with other requirements. The company also has to report monthly data about its flights to the FAA, including the number of flights conducted and the pilot duty time per flight.

At the end of 2013, Amazon announced Prime Air, its initiative to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less via drones. The company had to wait until Thursday’s ruling by the FAA to get the unmanned aircraft off the ground.

Meanwhile, some Miami-Dade residents will get their Amazon orders delivered in one to two hours using the company’s new app, Prime Now. The company is testing the service in 10 Miami-Dade ZIP codes: 33122, 33125, 33126, 33131, 33144, 33172, 33174, 33182, 33184 and 33186 (parts of Doral, Miami, Sweetwater, West Miami, Kendall and the Fontainebleau area).

“You think you’re running out of toothpaste in the morning, and you’re a Prime member. Don’t worry, you’ll have it before you go to work,” said Kelly Cheeseman, a spokeswoman for Amazon.

Amazon is trying to carve its share of the increasingly competitive market of almost-instant deliveries, from San Franciso-based Instacart, which says it will deliver groceries to your door in two hours in select markets, to Google’s Shopping Express, which offers same-day delivery in certain cities.

The new app works like an online pizza order. Select an item, punch in the delivery address, get the option of tipping the carrier. The app gives customers a time frame in which a beloved beach towel or book will be in their hands.

Amazon is shipping the items from its Doral-area fulfillment center, which it opened in November 2014. Amazon has 50 U.S. fulfillment centers, and 50 more worldwide.

“Prime Now service is focused heavily on daily necessities. Stuff like bottled water, paper products, Kleenex,” Cheeseman said. “Think about having a birthday party to attend in the evening, and you haven’t purchased a present, or running out of dog food or pet items. Members are loving the convenience of having it within the hour.”

Prime Now is available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Two-hour delivery is free and one-hour delivery costs $7.99. The service is only available through iOS and Android devices.

To receive goods, a customer must be present at the time of delivery. Amazon will not leave merchandise at a doorstep. If customers order several items at once, they will be delivered together in a brown paper bag.

The Miami Herald tested the one-hour service on Thursday, placing an order for three boxes of cookies and an iced tea at 1:38 p.m. The package arrived at 2:05 p.m. in the hands of a smiling carrier.

Another Herald employee placed a two-hour order for boxes of mac-and-cheese, cereal, swimming goggles, sunscreen and toothpaste. Her order arrived within the two-hour window.

Cheeseman said Amazon will roll out Prime Now to more ZIP codes in Miami-Dade in the coming weeks.

She said many items available are tailored to Miamians.

“Beach toys, beach towels and sunscreen, you got it. Imagine you’re getting ready to head to the beach and you realize you’re out of suntan lotion, you can now get it delivered right to you as you pack to head out.”

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