Amazon boasts that it’s ready as soon as regulations are finalised, but technological intricacies still need to be ironed out.
Will the whish of tiny propellers populate our skies? If Amazon is to be believed then the answer is yes, and soon. This isn’t ripped out of dystopian fiction, but is on the verge of tomorrow. But others aren’t so sure, the possible and the acceptable being cited as concepts which aren’t always aligned: public safety being top of the priority list.
Despite the dangers of this month’s best seller falling on your head, or a stray propeller saving you the trouble of getting a haircut. Amazon’s Vice President of Global Public Policy told a congressional hearing that his company would be ready as soon as the rules were in place, they clearly have a plan to eliminate any chance of danger. The regulations have some time to be finalised, with a deadline of June next year, which is understandable given the amounts of points to consider. Only drones up to 55lbs will be covered and if the skies are filled, then their radio frequencies must be well guarded.
However, it’s the ambition of the idea that seems it’s biggest flaw, if it was to be from one uninhabited place to another, the advantages would be clear, but from a warehouse to a urban or suburban location is a different matter, fraught with danger. There are going to be many hazards which may change with a changing landscape, GPS signal could be affected giving the drone incorrect information or people could get in the way or even throw things… Though it’s possible, it may be difficult to handle these obstacles in practice.
Don’t get me wrong, my scepticism is not something I’m proud of, getting a delivery via a drone would have innumerable benefits to congestion, pollution and would of course be incredibly cool. But it is the prejudice that comes with anything traveling in the air being inherently dangerous. For example, a commercial aircraft requires a rate of one serious failure or less every 1 million+ hours to be considered sky worthy. Drones simply aren’t at that level yet, with on failure every 10,000 hours. Though not an aircraft, a 55lb object falling from the sky is definitely going to cause some damage.
Drone technology will undoubtedly be more advanced by the time regulations are imposed. Perhaps Amazon were banking on this when they declared their readiness, or perhaps they have a plan they, for some reason, haven’t told me about, but it certainly seems that drone delivery is further off than they claim.
Beyond the obvious safety concerns, the main difficulty will be the logistical configuration of each drone route, which I imagine can be accomplished on a small scale, but worldwide, uncontrollable variants is another matter.
Despite the possible and acceptable being different, drones will definitely play a part in delivery services before the end of the decade, though all you need to do is imagine a drone in the air and all the potential difficulties any situation could bring and you quickly (and sadly) realise that in an urban environment the idea may need some more development before becoming feasible.
Needless to say, drones are cool and appeal to the sci-fi within each of us. I do hope a way can be found to iron out the issues in the near future, perhaps an Internet of Things solution which incorporates sensors strategically placed throughout a city which feedback to the drone? Or some other equally incomprehensible solution (to me).
We can only dare to dream
Is it a case of progress being stunted by slow to react regulations? Or are the safety concerns currently insurmountable? If you have any ideas, no matter how crazy, let us know over the social media below!