On the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed that the company had developed flying delivery drones. Called Amazon Prime Air, the technology has been tested and works today.
The objective, according to Amazon, is “to get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles.” This certainly solves the same-day delivery problem that Amazon has tried repeatedly to crack.
The drones can carry up to five pounds, which would address the majority of Amazon’s package delivery inventory (86 percent according to Bezos).
There are and will be those who immediately dismiss this as too problematic, intrusive, wacky or as another step in the creation of a real Skynet. However there are ways in which these or other delivery drones could get packages and goods to remote places that are hard to reach — or quickly in emergencies. By the same token there are equally going to be unreflective boosters who will simply embrace the shiny newness of it all.
If allowed to play out we’re likely to see creative, surprising and desirable uses of delivery drones. But there’s also a larger social debate that we need to have about how desirable it is to permit steady drone traffic across our skies. An anti-drone surveillance law was recently signed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.
While the drone delivery technology works, the legal regulations and associated permissions “will take some number of years” to secure estimated Amazon on a page promoting the service. If Amazon gets those permissions you can bet others will follow (FedEx, UPS, Walmart, etc.).
You can also bet there will be pranksters, radicals on the right and left and lunatics who might make these delivery drones into aerial target practice. (And God forbid, what about terrorism?) Lots of issues will need to be addressed and resolved before this could become a reality. However it’s safe to say that the commercial drone wars have already begun.
Below is an Amazon promotional video demonstrating its delivery drones in operation.