Amazon Tests Delivery Drones In The US. Is Prime Air Becoming A Reality?
Ever since the idea of drone delivery was first voiced by a certain Amazon executive, the world has been waiting with bated breath for the final reality verdict: will our generation be the one to go “oh, what’s that in the sky?” or will the idea be buried in paperwork and safety regulations.
Almost a year and a half later we seem to be facing the same fork in the road. But maybe, just maybe, things are starting to shift.
When Amazon first turned to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) for approval, it took the agency almost 6 months to allow the company to test its delivery drone prototype on American soil. By that time, the original design became obsolete and the company already had a new model awaiting testing.
The situation changed for the better on April 8th 2015, when the FAA officially granted Amazon the right to test out its new UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle) on the US territory. The approval is part of a larger trend within the agency to speed up the process for “low-risk UAVs” – and other companies may expect to get their requests granted as well, as long as the UAVs in question will not be flying higher than 400 feet or faster than 100 miles per hour.
With all the approval festivities, there are still a number of questions that remain unanswered.
Where will Prime Air (drone delivery system) work?
We are all aware that the system will work in the US only (at least for now), but how much of the US will actually be able to benefit from the service? According to initial reports, the drones will have a 10-mile radius, which makes them capable of delivering packages to the areas close to Amazon distribution centres. Thus, those living in remote areas may have to wait longer for the progress to reach them.
Will the packages be safe?
This seems to be the most pressing issue for the company to address. People are wondering what will protect all the package-carrying drones from…well, people. While we would all like to believe that we live in a world where a drone can pass safely through an urban area with kids and adults cheering it on, the reality can be quite different. Fueled by curiosity, the desire to see something break or simply the interest in the package itself, there is no guarantee that we won’t be facing nation-wide drone hunting seasons – with poor quadcopters being brought down for fun or profit.
While the details are still being worked out, it is to be expected that drones will be flying at least 300 feet above ground (where possible) and, perhaps, deliver to secured “drop spots” in the initial stages, rather than specific addresses.
What about public safety?
The safety question works both ways here – and it’s not only the drones that are in potential danger. If an occasional malfunction brings one of the devices down in a crowded area, Amazon may find itself drowning in lawsuits. In the company’s safety statement, Amazon pledges to follow FAA’s regulations and specifies the agency is working on rules regarding unmanned aerial vehicles that will prioritize public safety.
Will weather be a factor?
With international flight delays associated with poor weather conditions, it wouldn’t be wise to assume that drones will be weather-proof. The company admits that it will have to improve on the current quadcopter technology to make the delivery system stable under various outside conditions. While a summer rain will not present a problem, a heavy shower or blizzard will surely be a restricting factor.
Interested in doing some of your own flying? Check out our latest arrivals in the quadcopter section here.