Earlier this week Jeff Bezos of Amazon announced their ambitious plan to deliver products ordered online to the customer within 30 minutes. Of course this promise comes with a major caveat, that being that the customer must live within a 10-mile radius of an Amazon distribution center. I guess that means that they will need to build distribution centers around the country like Walmart builds stores. Anyway, how is Amazon planning to achieve this 30-minute goal? By using drone aircraft of course.
Drone aircraft? I’m not sure if these will be remotely piloted or whether they will have artificial intelligence to avoid things like bridges, fly balls over ball parks, other drones, tall buildings, or even Superman. I’m sure some of these details remain to be worked out. Jeff did say that one hurtle is getting FAA approval for low flying aircraft. I suppose that includes concerns about sharing airspace with things like traffic helicopters, news helicopters, and emergency helicopters. Maybe they will define different altitudes for travel in different directions like they do for commercial flights.
Jeff also stated that the program would be piloted (pun intended) in New York and Los Angeles, two densely populated cities which would cover a lot of potential customers using the 10-mile radius limitation. But my question for such densely populated areas is how does a drone deliver a package to a customer on the 10th floor of a high rise apartment building? Do they drop the package by parachute or just try to shoot it through an open window? Perhaps the customer lives in a townhouse instead. Will the GPS be accurate enough to deliver the package to the right doorstep and not allow it to drift in the breeze to a neighbor’s door? And if the package is delivered to the wrong doorstep, who is responsible?
Another thing to consider is what happens when the mechanism that grips the package, which by the way could weigh up to 5 pounds, fails and the package falls from the drone onto your car are you drive down the street or on a person walking around the block or on two young lovers kissing in the park?
What if these drones are remotely piloted and the ‘pilots’ start to play ‘war games’ and start competing with each other earning points for what they hit with their packages? Once they start doing that, it is a small step to begin arming their drones with little guns or perhaps even a small high powered laser. Soon we might have dogfights in our sky with Amazon trying to shoot down Overstock who is trying to laser NoMoreRack who is trying to crash into Land’s End and on and on. The fallout, literally, from these dogfights will rain down on pedestrians as millions of dollars in merchandize goes undelivered to the sound of crying children on Christmas morning when their toys, ordered by their parents (or guardians), fails to show up because they were shot down a mere two blocks from a safe delivery.
Extreme? Yes! But it is the Christmas season where people stay up all night or even camp out by their favorite stores to get the latest ‘got-to-have’ toy or electronics. So is it that hard to believe parents going out to shoot down drones carrying the latest Play Station 47 or Xbox GX9 before it can be delivered to the Jones family down the street?
Well it is the Christmas season, the time of year retailers live for. So who knows what will happen when Amazon launches their drones. Tis the season to think and be wary, fa-la-la-la-la…..
C’ya next time.