Drones, known for unleashing Hellfire missile attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, may be delivering a much softer range of products in the future — products sold by online retail giant Amazon.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who recently acquired the Washington Post newspaper for a song, announced on Sunday during a prime time interview on CBS news channel that his company was working on getting products to customers in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
According to Mr. Bezos, “Octocopters” would pick up customers’ boxed orders from a “fulfilment centre” and then use GPS coordinates to carry it to the customer’s address and drop it in the front yard of the house.
While Amazon.com has reportedly said that the this “Prime Air” drone project was still in the research and development phase and it may “take years to advance the needed technology and for the needed federal Aviation Administration rules and regulations to be created”, drones currently are capable of carrying packages weighing up to 10 kg, and this accounts for about 86 per cent of the items Amazon delivers.
Amazon.com is said to be testing drones with a range of about 10 miles, which Mr. Bezos noted, “could cover a significant portion of the population in urban areas”.
Following the announcement, Amazon’s stock rose by one per cent in pre-market trading after the Thanksgivingweekend. However, some pointed out that there was still a morass of logistical and legal issues that needed to be sorted out before the drone-delivery system could become completely operational.
Logistical questions include how the drone would find a package’s intended recipient after flying to a particular GPS address; how the transfer of the package would be effected; and how theft or other disruptions — including the possibility that the drone may be shot down — would be avoided.
On the legal front the use of drones of such large-scale commercial purposes is currently not possible under U.S. law and the regulator in this field, the Federal Aviation Administration, “intends to make commercial drones legally viable and workable by 2015, but this deadline is all-but impossible”, reports said, especially given the domestic concerns about terror attacks or drone-related accidents.