The Drones are Coming!

Category: Shopping

Are you ready for aerial drones to replace the UPS truck and the friendly Fedex guy? Walmart petitioned the FAA on October 27 for permission test drones outdoors, in residential neighborhoods, to deliver packages to customers. But they're not the only ones with delivery-by-drone plans. Read on to learn how soon the drones will be arriving in your neighborhood...

Are You Ready For Delivery Drones?

“Wal-Mart’s distribution system could become more efficient and consumers could be better served, benefitting the public interest,” Shekar Natarjan, the company’s VP of logistics delivery, wrote in a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Walmart comes late to the delivery-by-drone party. Amazon announced its intention to pursue drone delivery in 2013, and received approval for outdoor tests in April, 2015. Google launched its “Project Wing” delivery drone research in August, 2014, and has been conducting outdoor tests for the past year in partnership with NASA. DHL has won approval to use drones in Germany, delivering medicines and other necessities to an island off the country’s coast.

Currently, FAA regulations prohibit commercial package deliveries via drones in the U. S., a ban that will last at least until 2017. But consumers seem to want it pretty badly. In a survey of 1,400 Americans conducted by Sands and Walker Communications, two-thirds of respondents expect to be receiving drone deliveries within five years, and 80% of them are willing to pay extra for it.
Drone Delivery concerns

Forty-eight percent of respondents said they would pay at least $5 per order for drone delivery. Only 23% said they would be unwilling to pay extra for it. Twelve percent were unwilling to get any deliveries via drone, citing concerns about safety (74%), cost (69%), privacy (64%), and theft (58%).

To no one’s surprise, the cost of an item has strong influence on whether consumers want it delivered via drone, which (for now) can only drop packages near a delivery address. About three-quarters of respondents were open to drone delivery of inexpensive things like books, pet supplies, and everyday apparel; only 15% are willing to have a drone drop luxury goods on their lawns.

Safety and Privacy Concerns

Safety is the FAA’s biggest concern. How can unmanned drones avoid each other, buildings and trees, and commercial air traffic? The FAA is working on that with NASA, which recently demonstrated a sophisticated drone programmed with maneuvers for avoiding collisions in 200 scenarios. On June 17, an FAA administrator told a Congressional hearing that the agency will have regulations in place for commercial drones within a year.

Privacy concerns will be hard to allay. Delivery drones will need video cameras to see where they’re going; video will be fed back to remote operators, and footage will surely be saved. People on the ground will have no idea where that camera is pointed when a drone flies over their back yards.

A Kentucky county court judge recently dismissed charges filed against a man who downed a drone with a shotgun because, he claimed, it was spying on his 16 year-old daughter while she sunbathed. My biggest reason for being skeptical of drone delivery is the temptation that some people will undoubtedly feel to swat them out of the sky. What's to stop 14-year-old kids from going after them with a rock, a baseball bat, or a blast from the garden hose? Drone hunting will become a sport. And of course the lawyers are salivating. At least one firm is specializing in drone delivery lawsuits.

Adding more drones to the skies, particularly over heavily populated areas, seems ill-advised to me. Already, non-commercial drones have become such a hazard to air traffic that the FAA recently announced plans to require registration of drones and drone operators. As the price of drones continues to fall, incidents of drones threatening commercial aircraft have soared to “hundreds per month,” says the FAA. On at least five occasions, drones have interfered with forest firefighting aircraft, delaying drops of fire retardant.

And the skies will only become more crowded; market researchers are estimating that over 1 million drones will be sold in the U.S. this holiday season. Do we really need fleets of drones from Amazon, Walmart, and thousands of local restaurants? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "The Drones are Coming!"

(See all 31 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Mac 'n' Cheese
02 Nov 2015

I suspect that the idea of having doughnuts delivered to our door by drones is appealing because:

1) As a society, we want stuff NOW. Patience is not particularly plentiful.
2) Having your doughnut holes dropped in your foxhole is unique, it's unusual, it's trendy, and it's a status symbol.

I suspect that the idea will lose its appeal:

1) When crackups become commonplace.
2) When wigs are wafted away in the wind.
3) When sky delivery loses its status. Our great-grandparents were jazzed to receive a home shipment from the Sears & Roebuck catalog store--even if it was brought on a buggy. Now home delivery is so b-o-r-i-n-g we want little tiny helicopters to drop our goodies on the grass.



Posted by:

02 Nov 2015

If a single drone can carry a single package, and there are multiple deliveries to be made to a single street, it's going to get very crowded. Also, if a delivery can only be made within a "reasonable distance" of say, my front porch, I'll have more worries about somebody stealing my packages than I do now.

Posted by:

Dennis Reynolds
02 Nov 2015

I'm not sure this is a good idea at all. There will be a whole new criminal enterprise of stealing these deliveries. Plus the privacy concerns. What happens if they "inadvertently" see someone using drugs ? Can that person then be prosecuted ? Do we not have a RIGHT to peace and privacy in our own yards without someone "spying" on us and without being disturbed by something overhead delivering a pizza to a neighbor ? No I don't think these drones are a good idea at all to be used for commercial deliveries.

Posted by:

02 Nov 2015

Drones delivering packages is a terrible idea. So many safety and privacy factors to overcome. This should go the way of the flying car. Just because the technology exists doesn't mean it should be used.

Posted by:

Ken Mitchell
02 Nov 2015

There's one additional component that will be required for any successful drone delivery system; a homing beacon. You would request a beacon from Amazon (or Walmart, or whoever) and they would ship you a small delivery beacon, perhaps the size of a bathroom scale. It would be coded to your Amazon Prime account, and normally plugged in via USB to your computer. When you purchase something and request "Amazon Prime Air" delivery, Amazon sends a command to your delivery beacon, telling it to expect a delivery with the following ID number. (Perhaps the beacon actually includes a scale, in which case the beacon can verify that a package of the correct weight was delivered.)

The customer gets a message to place the beacon in the BACK yard, in a space with a clear view of the sky. Apartment managers may have their own beacons, and the customer would specify the apartment house beacon code.

The drone launches with the package and navigates by GPS to the vicinity of the customer. The drone then sends a query to the beacon, the beacon replies with a "land here" code, and the drone lands ON THE BEACON, drops off the package and flies away. The beacon sends a delivery acknowledgement message to Amazon and to the customer, and the cycle is complete.

Posted by:

02 Nov 2015

I think they are really interesting. Would love to play with one for taking pictures. I do agree with you,Bob, that it's a nightmare waiting to happen. I could see a value in them in emergency situations where smaller items could be delivered where getting in out may not be fast or easy. I can envision emergency parts for roadside assistance (think big rigs), but everyday delivery? I don't think w r e really ready for that. I see them being a fun hobby like model airplanes and such, and should be seen that way. Surveying, search and rescue, definently! It's either a tool, or a toy.

Posted by:

02 Nov 2015

Being a man of few words -- ASININE idea.

Posted by:

02 Nov 2015

The cost skeet shooting at range could be eliminated.

Posted by:

02 Nov 2015

02 Nov 2015

Yours is undoubtedly the best comment in my opinion.

Posted by:

02 Nov 2015

In addition to all the valid points other posters hsve made, I am curious how the theft of the drone itself could be prevented.
These drones will obviously be high end models, the kind any kid would want. A drone can easily be brought down undamaged with a cast net, then reprogrammed to be your drone much more cheaply than to buy your own.
Indeed, Craigslist may soon become a good place to buy one if you can't catch one yourself.

Posted by:

02 Nov 2015

Any expansion in the use of drones is an all around bad idea. Besides the safety and privacy concerns already expressed, I just don't want things flying near me. And automation has already caused too many people to lose their jobs,

Posted by:

02 Nov 2015

Say hello to Skynet!!!

Posted by:

03 Nov 2015

Bob, The answer to your question is a resounding NO.

Posted by:

03 Nov 2015

How much weight can these things carry and then for how fare? from my experience they can only stay up for 15 minutes and that is without a payload.

Posted by:

03 Nov 2015

I see a lot of broken packages, with drone delivery!!! It even happens with FedEx, USPS, UPS and DHL.

Broken items aside -- I worry about the airways!!! It just isn't a good idea, at all. Amazon started this whole idea and it really needs to be stopped. We have already had some problems with drones, like the one that landed on the WH lawn. Lasers are just as bad, since, there has been incidents of lasers being shined up to the sky and bothering pliots, flying planes.

As Ted said -- ASISINE and I say, INSANE.

Posted by:

03 Nov 2015

We have enough noise pollution now. We don't need more. What about the birds? Won't that noise chase them away?

Posted by:

Darrell H Leacock
03 Nov 2015

I am 87 years on this globe and have been regaled by Many of this type of potential pie in the sky efforts. I will only cite one from before the end of WW 2

" We will all be flying our own Automobile/ Airplanes in the very near future." Parked in our own garages, folded wings and all..

Posted by:

Darrell H. Leacock
03 Nov 2015

If you think that Texting, etc. while driving is dangerous, think about watching drones while driving. And they will.
OH , that is what driverless cars are for, RIGHT?

Posted by:

Marc Menard
03 Nov 2015

The number one concern for any helicopter pilot is electrical wires. So on top of privacy issues, safety issues (driving around town then one of those lands on your windshield, that'll make it interesting?), there's the possibility that these things might sever power lines. If they're powerfull enough to lift some cargo, then they're not using lightweight plastic blades. These things will be dangerous. And there's no real cost advantage I can think of. One order, one trip, right now multiple orders delivered by a single truck to multiple addresses. I really don't know how the dudes at the top of those companies are thinking that this is a good idea. My opinion is that someone from marketing is putting them up to it for the cool factor, not really thinking through all the possible facets. Let's kill this before it gets off the ground...

Posted by:

05 Nov 2015

I'd have to say NOT GOOD! It's only just begun and already out of control. I don't wish to have the government spying around much less some novice nut case. Never saw a problem with the military putting eyes on a suspected enemy.

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