Amazon made news a few weeks ago when they announced that they were working on drones that would deliver your packages. Anything called a “drone” now gets instant media blitz. I do believe it was largely a PR move. Paul Thurrott had a great tweet: “The sheer amount of free PR that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos got for his BS ‘drone delivery system’ is awe-inspiring. Media, you just got played.”
It’s easy to poke holes in the proposal. How are you going to keep it from murdering a dog when it lands? Why won’t people just shoot them down? The batteries won’t last long enough. The FAA will never allow it. Some of these have more merit than others, and sure, we’re a long way from making this possible, but there is very little question in my mind that something like this is coming.
There are two great interviews on TheAtlantic.com that are worth reading. The first is with Andreas Raptopoulos, the founder of a company who is creating a network of drones to deliver packages. The second one is with an emerging technologies ethics and policy implications expert from UW named Ryan Calo. The interviews say that there are already quadcopters which can go 50km on a single charge, and that’s with today’s battery technology. Imagine what they could do in five years.
Even if the regulations in the US are very strict, the implications for third world countries is huge. Those countries have little or no regulatory oversight. Drones make a lot of financial sense when there isn’t an existing infrastructure like UPS or FedEx (or even well-maintained roads.)
When you hear “drones” in the mass media, it’s usually equated with science fiction or something evil. In the next decade I think we’re going to learn that neither is true.