News / Economy

Technology, Rules Keep Amazon Drone Delivery in Hangar, for Now

Amazon Delivery Dronesi
X
December 02, 2013 2:04 PM
The head of U.S. online retail giant Amazon.com says the company may use tiny drones to quickly deliver packages to customers in the near future.
Video demonstrating Amazon's delivery drones
Reuters
Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos made a splash on Sunday with his radical plan to deliver goods to millions of its customers' doors by using a fleet of unmanned drones, but the bold vision is not likely to become a reality this decade.
 
By Bezos' own admission, the technology that would enable electric-powered 'octocopters' to fly to pre-programmed addresses unaided by humans is still early in development, and the United States is not likely to establish rules for civilian unmanned aircraft systems until 2015 at the earliest.
 
On top of that, the idea faces privacy concerns and was derided by some as merely a publicity stunt.
 
“I know this looks like science fiction. It's not,” Bezos told Charlie Rose on CBS News' “60 Minutes” show on Sunday night, demonstrating video of a buzzing, toy-sized chopper delicately dropping a small package on a customer's patio.
 
The piece was aired on the eve of “Cyber Monday,” one of the busiest online shopping days of the year when it helps Amazon to be on the minds of customers.
 
Dubbed “Prime Air” by Amazon, the vehicles could be used to deliver packages up to five lbs. (2.3 kg) in less than 30 minutes within a 10-mile (16-km) radius of Amazon's so-called fulfillment centers, said Bezos.
 
“This is still years away... I don't want anyone to think this is just around the corner,” said Bezos on "60 Minutes,” acknowledging that the technology needs years of work, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration won't likely have rules on unmanned vehicles until 2015 at the earliest.
 
But Bezos - renowned for his patience on long-term projects - said he was optimistic on making it a reality sooner rather than later.
 
“Could it be four, five years? I think so. It will work, and it will happen, and it's going to be a lot of fun,” he added.
 
Safety, Privacy Concerns
 
The idea of deliveries by unmanned vehicles is not completely new. Tech news site The Verge reported last month that Australian textbook rental firm Zookal plans to use drones to deliver books in that country next year, possibly expanding the service to the United States later.
 
But that company, and Bezos, are up against a raft of real-world challenges.
 
The U.K.-based Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) immediately warned that the technology needs refinement.
 
“There are many challenges to overcome,” said the IET's Lambert Dopping-Hepenstal, who is pushing for wider use of unmanned aircraft worldwide. “Top of the list is the need to mature the technologies and demonstrate to the regulators that unmanned aircraft can operate safely in our airspace.”
 
U.S. authorities have recognized the commercial applications of drones, but appear to be in no hurry to set the rules. The FAA currently only allows the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) by public entities on a case-by-case basis.
 
“Over the next several years the FAA will establish regulations and standards for the safe integration of remote piloted UAS to meet increased demand,” the FAA said in an e-mailed statement on Monday.
 
The FAA plans to begin tests on commercial UAS by the end of this year and to propose a rule for small craft next year, which means no firm regulations will be set before 2015. So far, only a single commercial UAS operator has been approved, in the Arctic.
 
Broader reaction to Bezos' plan was mixed.
 
Mark Udall, a Democrat Colorado senator who is pushing legislation that would outlaw domestic surveillance by UAS, raised concerns about privacy.
 
“Coloradans will accept this technology only if they are certain their privacy is protected and that Americans won't be victims of surveillance or privacy abuse by private unmanned aerial system operators,” he said in a statement.
 
Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace industry expert and analyst at Teal Group, was more blunt.
 
“It's such an appallingly dumb idea that I presume they're talking about it as a form of clever satire,” he said on Monday.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: riano baggy from: indonesia
December 03, 2013 5:29 AM
i think use drone not efficient because many software and hardware can used, think easy and efficient by use bicycle and or skateboard or friendly transportation,
be clean ours atmosphere.

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
December 02, 2013 10:25 PM
Interesting way to deliver mails and parcels. Yet I am afraid this technology would take works away from postmen. Jobless rate would rise again. Robotics always hamper workers from earning money.

by: Emilie from: Seattle
December 02, 2013 6:01 PM
This looks like a flying barbecue grill! It should be quite amusing if this idea ever takes off the ground...oooh, sorry.

by: Cranksy from: USA
December 02, 2013 2:16 PM
I regret having read this item. I thought it would be fertile for satirical comment. It is an advertisement for the company involved. It may be pleasing to the shallow who find technology titillating. (This comment is based only on VOA's coverage.)

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8916
JPY
USD
121.32
GBP
USD
0.6487
CAD
USD
1.3252
INR
USD
66.401

Rates may not be current.