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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an Amazon drone delivering a package of popcorn!!

Three years ago, the Chief Executive of Amazon announced the company’s interest in using drones as a means for delivering packages. At the time, very few people actually envisioned a future that would actually involve such a Jetsonesque application of technology. And yet, that time is drawing nearer. On December 7, a drone left a warehouse in Cambridgeshire, England and delivered to a customer an Amazon Fire streaming device and some popcorn. Hardly a day that will impress itself as a watershed moment (as in: “I remember exactly where I was when Amazon made its first drone delivery!”), but worth noting nonetheless.

amazon-prime-air-private-trial-flying-high-resThe flight itself covered only about 2 miles and lasted for 13 minutes, and Amazon has suggested that as a result of its success, it will now be shipping to two additional customers via drone. This could later expand to serve hundreds of shoppers as part of their Prime Air shopping experience. Imagine it: click on a book and wait for the pitter patter of little blades to cut through the air and land on a temporary landing pad in your yard or on the roof of your apartment. I know the novelty would eventually wear off, but I might order things a little more frequently just to have them brought to me like that (as in: “Gather round children, here comes mommy’s new socks!”).

There are some doubts, however, that this can become the next, regular method for goods deliveries to occur. There are questions about how these kinds of deliveries would be regulated by aviation rules, the ways in which deliveries might be impacted by weather, and what happens when the cargo is heavy – no one wants to hear of someone squished under a set of improperly secured, drone controlled encyclopedias.

There are also concerns about what this kind of personless delivery system might mean for workers. As automation is increasingly adopted to carve out increased profits for those at the top of businesses, workers lose their jobs to machines. Utilizing drones could mean that less truck drivers are needed to deliver goods. On the other hand, less trucks on the road could mean reduced environmental impacts. It’s an extremely complex three-dimensional puzzle game, the winners of which are far from easy to predict.

amazon-prime-air_private-trial_ground-high-resA final hurdle exists in public attitudes towards this new delivery method. Cambridgeshire resident Julia Napier is not sold on the idea that there are sufficient benefits to outweigh concerns about drones’ impacts on local wildlife. Part of her suspicions of the technology has been American regulators’ failure to green-light drone testing. In her words: “They are testing those drones here because they can’t do it in America. Whatever the Americans don’t want, I don’t want it, either.”

Although there have been several historical drone deliveries over the past year, it seems that we’re unlikely to see fleets of quadcopters darkening the skies, delivering goods hither and thither like flocks of 3D printed bumblebees in the very near future.  However, that doesn’t mean we haven’t started walking down the path that will eventually allow for the development of some of the systems in a way that can be successfully integrated into contemporary consumer culture.

And I still kind of want a drone to bring me something to read.

Discuss in the Amazon Drone Delivery forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: New York Times]

 

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