Amazon Gets Approval for Delivery Drone Testing: The Pros and Cons
As of last Thursday, Amazon.com has been given consent from U.S. Federal Regulators to test potential delivery drones outdoors. The approval now makes the popular online company one large step closer in achieving their goal of delivering customers’ packages by air. And by air, they mean via a spider-looking, unmanned, futuristic contraption that one might compare to a flying saucer.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stated last Thursday that they issued a certificate on one of Amazon’s business units, giving them permission to conduct drone test flights over private rural lands in Washington. Additionally, the FAA granted them exemption from outside flight restrictions so the drones can conduct experimental flights in their designated area more efficiently.
Although Amazon has been given approval for flight testing and other added benefits, the drone experimental phase still faces many limitations from the FAA.
One limitation restricts Amazon’s drone testing to only one particular type of drone, requiring the company to obtain new certificates if there are any modifications to the aerial vehicle. Other restrictions include having the aircraft within sight at all times, and always keeping the flight’s altitude under 400 feet. In response to the restrictions, Amazon has recently asked for a flight limitation of 500 feet instead.
The company has not responded to any comment requests from the media dealing with the updated approvals thus far, however Amazon’s Public Policy Chief is set to testify a hearing on the company’s drone usage within the next day or so.
As of now, Amazon’s master plan is to send out packages via drone and call the method “Amazon Prime Air”. They describe the Prime Air approach as a futuristic delivery system designed to get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less – all through the use of small, un-piloted aircrafts.
These aircrafts will fly at 50 miles-per-hour and be equipped with sensory features in order to avoid objects while on their journey. The company is also working with NASA on air-traffic management. Case and point, it’s finally the future and Amazon seems to be first in line to adjust to the times.
The idea of potential drone use among companies, Amazon included, is becoming more and more popular as of recently due to the benefits it can provide in multiple areas. One of these benefits is that delivery drones could be an super-green alternative which could heavily aid in atmosphere conservation. Since the aircrafts will be battery powered, it’s sure to greatly reduce harmful gas emissions from delivery vehicles such as trains, buses, and airplanes.
Future drone usage could also provide better management of overconsumption in our current economy. Since buyers could potentially be shopping online more with the use of successful delivery drones, they will therefore be consuming less due to not being face-to-face with certain items. As a result of not having easy accessibly, they would no longer be experiencing the classic “I must have this!” urge. If you don’t believe me on that last statement, check out this recent article by TIME stating how studies have shown that those who shop online make fewer impulsive decisioned-purchases.
With a variety of pros, there are naturally a good amount of cons to balance it out. While future drone usage could aid the environment, it could also pose as a threat to our wildlife. Our feathered friends in the sky (aka birds) have the potential factor of interacting with drones while roaming freely, leaving them to believe the aircraft is threat to their territory. This can result in unneeded stress or physical harm put upon the creatures if they chose to attack the flying machine. An article posted by Slate tells us of possible bird vs. drone battles, also discussing how the animals will be disturbed by outside forces while residing in their natural habitat.
Delivery drones could also have the public concerned over privacy. If the machines are being sent to a specific address, they are very likely to need some type of GPS that requires the use of cameras in order to efficiently locate the property. With this new advancement in technology being fresh and vulnerable, it can raise all types of questions such as possible data collecting from the company, using that data in a particular way, and other similar worries – leaving us wondering just how much “invasion of privacy” will be put upon such buyers who wish to remain under the radar.
Pros and cons aside, it’s a fact that potential drone usage among today’s companies is in the works as a future goal – and Amazon seems to be first in line to take necessary steps in order to achieve it.
In February, the FAA proposed a long awaited set of rules and guidelines regarding drone usage and addressed the growing interest of corporations in using them for the future. These drafted rules must still undergo revision, which is expected to take at least a year until it’s finalized.
In the meantime, take a look at Amazon’s trailer video of the Prime Air Drone below. Could future delivery drones benefit both consumers and sellers? Or will the risks outweigh the advantages?