Amazon announced their latest R&D project, Amazon Prime Air, to much hoopla yesterday. It’s a delivery system likened to the TacoCopter or Australian company Zookal, which will deliver textbooks with drones.
Drones are always a subject quick to gather cheap and easy media attention. Anytime there is a drone crash or some wacky new use for drones, they are nearly always guaranteed to land some sort of media attention. So it’s no surprise that Amazon Prime Air, or the #AmazonDrone on the Interwebz, is what’s keeping water coolers and Facebook news feeds abuzz these days. Now I can buy literally anything (sold on Amazon and weighing under 5 pounds) and have it delivered in 30 minutes?
Should we greet this news with excitement? Fear? Or simply chalk it up to an epic Cyber Monday PR stunt?
“One day, Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today,” Amazon’s new Prime Air page states. That’s an accurate assumption, Amazon. Drones have already proven more efficient, environmentally friendly and cost effective for a myriad of enterprise operations.
“We hope the FAA’s rules will be in place as early as sometime in 2015,” the text states. “We will be ready at that time.”
Hold up, slow down. This is what seems to be causing much hullabaloo. The fear of drones buzzing through the skies is certainly worth having, but it’s not completely rational given the limitations of the technology.
Drones can’t legally be used for commercial purposes until the FAA says so. That won’t be until at least 2015, according to the FAA’s Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap. Emphasis on the “at least.”
Amazon is doing R&D right now, but that’s really all they can do. Once Amazon gets through the FAA (post-2015), they’ll go through beta testing in a small portion of a city. Remember, drones can’t fly much farther than a few miles from the shipping centers, so they’ll be confined to a certain space. There are a million other technological considerations that of course Amazon is aware of — air traffic control, safety, theft, etc. During this pre-2015 FAA holding period, Amazon will be able to work on solutions.
Sure, one day, maybe in our life time, we’ll live in a real science fiction world where our packages are delivered within 30 minutes from the sky, direct to our doorstep.
But it’s irrational to believe that the second the clock strikes 2015, the sky will be turned into a highway of drones whizzing past each other. It’s a slow process, but I look forward to Amazon Prime Air’s first delivery.
Here’s to hoping their first delivery is my Washington Post subscription.