Ok, so it’s not that kind of drone. Too bad today isn’t April 1st, or I might have gotten really carried away with the headline.
In this week’s game-delayed airing of 60 Minutes, Jeff Bezos unveiled his plan to do rapid local delivery of at least some parcels in limited areas. His time frame is 2-5 years to start this up. I have seen reports of 2015 as the target date, but Mrs. Amazopia said she heard him say, “five years.”
As much as I admire Mr. Bezos, I gotta wonder if he’s really thought this through.
Unmanned (or remotely-manned) flight technology is actually pretty impressive, but still…
As a licensed private pilot myself, I am keenly aware of the various hazards of flight in general. Even the commercial airlines, with their impressive safety records (at least in the US), occasionally have accidents. Things like bird strikes, lightning hits, really powerful down-drafts, and random mechanical failures will sometimes (fortunately, rarely) bring down an aircraft, resulting in injuries or loss of lives. But here is the head of Amazon talking about putting thousands of flying parcels in the air in densely-populated areas. No matter how well-built a machine is, it’s still a mechanical device that can fail. Even with 6-sigma quality (or better), if you have several thousand flying machines wandering about in a densely-populated area, it’s only a matter of time before somebody gets hurt by one of them. And it sorta doesn’t matter if those flying machines are statistically safer than delivery vans.
Another problem that comes readily to mind: Have you ever been in the vicinity of a helicopter landing? Something capable of hauling a parcel several miles is going to create some local disturbance.
Oh, and there is the problem that less-than-honorable people may intentionally damage these drones in order to steal their payloads. Which I think would be much easier to do than you might imagine.
I can think of many other technical problems facing this sort of flying parcel deployment. I recommend that Mr. Bezos read: If This is the Future…Where is my Flying Car? (I cleaned up that title slightly) He can get it right in his very own store.
I’ll go out on a limb here, and confidently predict that Jeff Bezo’s plan to deliver parcels via drones (which will look more like the photo to the left than the featured image above) isn’t going to happen. At least not in the next 2-3 years. He’s going to have technical, legal, and regulatory hurdles that are going to take a lot longer than that to climb over.
The photo to the left is linked to a book on buying, building, and flying your own hobbyist drones. On Amazon, of course.