Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

December 3, 2013

Amazon.com sees delivery drones as future

NEW YORK — Amazon is working on a way to get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less — via self-guided drone.

Consider it the modern version of a pizza delivery boy, minus the awkward teenager.

Amazon.com Inc. says it’s working on the so-called Prime Air unmanned aircraft project but it will take years to advance the technology and for the Federal Aviation Administration to create the necessary rules and regulations.

The project was first reported by CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday night, hours before millions of shoppers turned to their computers to hunt Cyber Monday bargains.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in the interview that while his octocopters look like something out of science fiction, there’s no reason they can’t be used as delivery vehicles.

Bezos said the drones can carry packages that weigh up to five pounds, which covers about 86 percent of the items Amazon delivers. The drones the company is testing have a range of about 10 miles, which Bezos noted could cover a significant portion of the population in urban areas.

Bezos told “60 Minutes” the project could become a working service in four or five years.

Unlike the drones used by the military, Bezos’ proposed flying machines won’t need humans to control them remotely. Amazon’s drones would receive a set of GPS coordinates and automatically fly to them, presumably avoiding buildings, power lines and other obstacles.

Delivery drones raise a host of concerns, from air traffic safety to homeland security and privacy. There are technological and legal obstacles, too —similar to Google’s experimental driverless car. How do you design a machine that safely navigates the roads or skies without hitting anything? And, if an accident occurs, who’s legally liable?

Delivering packages by drone might be impossible in a city like Washington D.C. which has many no-fly zones.

But technology entrepreneur and futurist Ray Kurzweil notes that “technology has always been a double edged sword.”

“Fire kept us warm and cooked our food but also was used to burn down our villages,” says Kurzweil.

“It’s fascinating as an idea and probably very hard to execute,” says Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies who sees Bezos as an unconventional thinker. “If he could really deliver something you order within 30 minutes, he would rewrite the rules of online retail.”

Amazon has already done that once. In 1995, with investments from family and friends, Bezos began operating Amazon as an online bookseller out of a Seattle garage. Over nearly two decades, Amazon grew to become the world’s largest online retailer, selling everything from shoes to groceries to diapers and power tools.

Amazon spends heavily on growing its business, improving order fulfillment and expanding into new areas. Those investments have come at the expense of consistent profitability, but investors have been largely forgiving, focusing on the company’s long-term promise and double-digit revenue growth.

The company spent almost $2.9 billion in shipping last year, accounting for 4.7 percent of its net sales.

There is no prohibition on flying drones for recreational use, but since 2007, the Federal Aviation Administration has said they can’t be used for commercial purposes.

“The technology has moved forward faster than the law has kept pace,” says Brendan Schulman, special counsel at the law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP.

Schulman is currently challenging that regulation before a federal administrative law judge on behalf of a client who was using a radio-controlled aircraft to shoot video for an advertising agency. Autonomous flights like Amazon is proposing, without somebody at the controls, are also prohibited.

The FAA is slowly moving forward with guidelines on commercial drone use. Last year, Congress directed the agency to grant drones access to U.S. skies by September 2015. But the agency already has missed several key deadlines and said the process would take longer than Congress expected.

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Man said to be homesick for prison gets 3 1/2 years

    An ex-con who spent most of his adult life behind bars on Thursday got what he said he wanted for robbing a suburban Chicago bank. The 74-year-old gets to go back to the place he called home — prison.

    April 18, 2014

  • Greenleaf embarks on ‘a new beginning’

    Greenleaf Center invites health-care professionals and business leaders to a ribbon cutting at its 2209 Pineview Drive location to recognize the newly renovated hospital.

    April 18, 2014

  • Today in History for Friday, April 18, 2014

    Today is Good Friday, April 18, the 108th day of 2014. There are 257 days left in the year.

    April 18, 2014

  • VSU, LHS bands partner for concert

    Valdosta State University Music Department’s Wind Ensemble and Lowndes High School’s Wind Symphony present a joint concert, 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 21, Whitehead Auditorium, VSU Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood.

    April 18, 2014

  • Southeastern Federal, VSU host baseball, movie in the park

    Almost everyone enjoys movies and almost everyone enjoys baseball, so what happens when you combine the two? That is exactly what Southeastern Federal Credit Union will be doing tonight with its Movies in the Park event.

    April 18, 2014

  • Valdosta playwright becomes author

    A Valdosta playwright has turned her play into a new book.

    April 18, 2014

  • Wild Adventures hosts Ostrich Easter Egg Hunt

    Tie on your Easter bonnet and hop over to Wild Adventures Saturday, April 19, for an Easter egg hunt with a distinctly Wild Adventures twist.

    April 18, 2014

  • GMC Valdosta holding Admissions Day

    Georgia Military College Valdosta will be hosting Admissions Day on Tuesday from 8-6 p.m.

    April 18, 2014

  • Color Me Free fun run planned

    South Georgia House of Hope is having a Color Me Free 5k Fun Run/Walk April 26 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., to emphasize Alcohol Awareness Month. All funds raised will benefit South Georgia House of Hope, which is a long-term residential home for women recovering from drug and alcohol addiction and abuse.

    April 18, 2014

  • Another arrest made in kidnapping

    Another arrest was made in the kidnapping of a North Carolina prosecutor’s father, federal investigators said Thursday.
    Quantavious Thompson was taken into custody late Wednesday afternoon, FBI spokeswoman Shelley Lynch said in a statement. Details on his arrest weren’t immediately available.

    April 18, 2014

Top News
Poll

What you think about school and workplace rules about Facebook friends?

There have to be rules.
No need for rules, just use common sense.
If people want to be friends, what is the big deal?
Nobody uses Facebook anymore.
     View Results