News / Economy

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

Amazon Delivery Dronesi
December 02, 2013 2:04 PM
The head of U.S. online retail giant says the company may use tiny drones to quickly deliver packages to customers in the near future.
Video demonstrating Amazon's delivery drones
Reuters 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

Video Egyptian Journalists Call for Press Freedom

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.