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December 3, 2013

Is Bezos just droning on or can you hear the buzz of excitement?

Amazon’s plans for drone deliveries are overly optimistic.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s announcement that the online retail giant is testing delivery drones seems pretty exciting.

He claims they will be able to make local deliveries within the vicinity of Amazon warehouses, dropping goods off at a customer’s door within 30 minutes of them placing an order.

But though the technology is nearly there, the use of civilian airspace may not be approved until 2018, and even that seems a little unrealistic.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has already granted 1,400 permits for police and government agency drone use, but hasn’t yet approved the use of civilian drones.

The danger is that once the body does, it opens the floodgates to hundreds of approvals for such services in localised areas across the country.

It will want to think through the mess of regulatory matters governing the number, frequency, height, speed, and nature of drone flights before it stamps that initial approval.

Then there’s the natural environment problems it’ll encounter: what happens when there’s high winds/tall buildings/big trucks/telephone poles/fast birds around?

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The technology will have to be near-optimum upon release to avoid and adapt to such hazards or it simply won’t, er, take off – and we’ve not even touched on privacy issues yet (Bezos admitted the aircraft would need cameras to avoid hitting things).

Tall people everywhere will be hunched over, fearful of overzealous haircuts and worse, but the upside is that we might see a flurry of innovation as every large company and delivery service rushes to build a reliable drone service of its own.

Then we’ll start seeing some really interesting developments as each tries to outdo the other.

It could go from deliveries, to providing traffic updates and news services, to family-owned drones running errands like walking the dog and grabbing a pint of milk, or running the house, or popping to the local park to remind the kids it’s dinner time.

While the idea of delivery drones becoming ubiquitous in five years – or even 10 – is unlikely, the kernel of Bezos’s dream has the potential to grow and grow.

The future may not be here yet, but it’s knocking on your door. And it’s carrying that package you ordered.

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