The Drones are Coming!
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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 2 Nov 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- The Drones are Coming! (Posted: 2 Nov 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved