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

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition 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.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9152
JPY
USD
122.70
GBP
USD
0.6494
CAD
USD
1.2374
INR
USD
63.925

Rates may not be current.