In the next few years, Amazon is expected to release Amazon Prime Air—a drone system that delivers products five pounds (or under) in 30 minutes or less.
Trials have already begun in Canada, the U.K., and the Netherlands. However, federal regulations imposed tough restrictions that prevented Amazon from using it in the United States until just recently. Last April, Amazon sent the Federal Aviation Administration a letter urging it to ease its restrictions. It was approved that same month to use its current drone models to test the prototype.
Currently, companies that wish to fly any type of drones must seek the FAA’S approval. This approval has to be done case-by-case, slowing down the time trials can begin in the U.S. The FAA approved Amazon’s bid for trials in the U.S. in April of last year, but not without restrictions. Some of the restrictions include prohibiting Amazon from flying drones during the nighttime and ensuring that all drones are watched under an operator’s supervision.
Drone advocacy groups, including the Small UAV Coalition, have argued against the FAA’s restrictions, contending that other countries with more lenient guidelines will have an economic advantage when it comes to using drones for business purposes.
Nevertheless, the FAA has maintained that drone safety is one its top priorities, further prolonging its availability for commercial use. In its recent approval, the FAA has allowed Amazon to fly its drones up to 400 feet high at 100 miles per hour over private property. All flights must be under an operator’s watch and remain within 500 feet distance from other people.
While getting products in less than a half hour may seem timely and efficient, it does not come without concern. The use of drones raises many concerns over privacy, security, and safety.
Amazon has proposed data implementations such as automated object detection, GPS surveillance, and gigapxel cameras. As a result, Amazon will collect plenty of information, both intentionally and unintentionally. This can potentially lead to the obtainment of unwanted personal information, thus violating personal privacy.
Safety issues such as the drones injuring a person, or interfering with air traffic is another concern. The FAA has been working to ensure safety while using the drones. Since Amazon is only allowed to use the drones under supervision for safety reasons, the distance the drones can travel is limited. This restriction could possibly prevent drone delivery. However, Amazon claims that safety is its top priority, and that it will only use its drones when it is certain they are safe to use. Amazon has implemented sense-and-
Security issues also arise, since the use of drones for commercial purposes may face hackers. Fortunately, for Amazon, other countries may face such hurdles first. Chinese delivery company SF Express, for example, is currently experimenting with ocotocopter delivery. If this company faces hackers first, Amazon will not have to worry about how to solve such issues.
If the FAA approves Amazon to use their drones for its customers, the industry of shopping could change completely. Consumers would no longer have to run to the supermarket to get a pack of batteries, or a pair of shoes. Also, it is said that such shipping costs would only cost $1! On top of that, Amazon is in talks of running its very own delivery service, which could put the postal services out of business. And, other major companies, such as Wal-Mart have followed Amazon’s pursuit to use drones to deliver groceries. As a result, in time, we may see multiple companies run out of business and thousands upon thousands of cashiers being laid-off.
While it is unclear when (or even if) companies will get approved for this revolutionary technology, Amazon is certain it will get approved. According to Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president for global public policy, “It’s gonna happen. It’s coming.”