Amazon will soon offer innovative package delivery method to consumers

Autonomous GPS directed drones requires further implementation before launching in 2015

by Jordan Smith, Staff Writer

3 Major points

  • the technology is available
  • FAA ruling will make use of commercial drones possible in 2015
  • Infrastructure and safety issues will be the biggest obstacles.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed the company’s plan to deliver packages via autonomous GPS directed drones on Sunday night’s broadcast of 60 minutes. The service has been dubbed Amazon PrimeAir and could potentially deliver packages weighing up to five pounds (lbs.) to destinations of sixteen kilometers, or ten miles away, within thirty minutes. Five lbs. may not seem like much but packages within that limit account for 86 per cent of Amazon’s sales.

The limited distance of deliveries may seem an obvious shortcoming. However, “in urban areas, you could actually cover very significant portions of the population,” stated Bezos.

Demonstration videos from Amazon on YouTube to show that the technology is available to make this system work.

Before these automatons can start dropping packages like a proverbial stork, there are very real issues to deal with. The most significant are concerns over safety. So much so that “Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) became the second member of Congress to raise the specter of Amazon PrimeAir to support an anti-surveillance bill” according to Adi Robertson’s article on The Verge

Other concerns deal with how to regulate the airspace. As it stands, “in Canada commercial drones have been allowed since 2008, but current laws require commercial operators to file a Special Flight Operation Certificate with Transport Canada for every flight” reads a CBC article from December 2.

However, in the United States, the use of commercial drones is still not allowed by the FAA. Changes to this will occur when the Drones Act comes into effect in 2015. Despite the legal possibilities of using commercial drones by 2015 the actual implementation of a safe and secure system will not be reality by then.

According to Bezos, the system will first need to implement, “all the redundancy, all the reliability, all the systems you need to say — look, this thing can’t land on somebody’s head while they’re walking around their neighbourhood.”

This type of delivery system isn’t limited to tech giants, however. At the OppiKoppi outdoor music festival this past August, the Capetown firm Darkwing Aerials used drones to deliver beer to its concertgoers.

Despite the obvious challenges facing this project, Bezos is optimistic and maintains that, “it will work and it will happen and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Jordan Smith is a 4th year History Major at Wilfrid Laurier University who also writes for the campus newspaper The Cord.

Photo courtesy to cbc.ca & media.cmgdigital.com

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