©1996-2015, Amazon.com, Inc.Imagine a future where a small flying robot arrives at your business with a package delivery you just ordered less than an hour prior. It’s a concept that’s a little creepy, a little cool — and one that Amazon aims to roll out with its futuristic Prime Air delivery drone system. While the online retailing giant is eager to pull the trigger on this bold new delivery method in the U.S., the FAA’s recent rules regulating drone usage may make such a move impossible.
Amazon’s vision for Prime Air, a program its been working on since 2013, involves unmanned delivery drones capable of air dropping packages right to your doorstep within 30 minutes of ordering them. It’s less science-fiction than it sounds, although current U.S. regulations don’t allow for it.
Bending the rules
Recognizing the growing interest in unmanned aircraft system (drone) technology and its potential business applications, the Federal Aviation Administration recently set out to expand its regulations to include allowances for regular use of small drones while keeping things flexible to not inhibit future innovations in technology.
The formal proposed rules, however, include specific language that put the kibosh on Amazon’s intended approach for drone use in a few key ways. Drones would be required to have a human operator, who maintains line-of site with the aircraft and — more critically — the regulatory language would “bar an operator from allowing any object to be dropped from the UAS.”
Other rules would require drones fly within 500 feet of ground level, not travel more than 100 mph, stay outside of airport flight paths, and discontinue flight in situations that could pose a hazard to other aircraft, people, or property.
Public polling of U.S. consumers shows there’s both interest in and a demand for a drone delivery service, with 77 percent of those polled indicating they’re willing to pay extra for drone deliveries that arrive in under and hour from the time they’re ordered.
If and when Amazon gets the proper regulatory green light, it intends to move forward with Prime Air in U.S. airspace, but in the meantime, the global company is exploring the testing and implementation of its program outside of our borders. Amazon executives haven’t pulled any punches when it comes to expressing frustration over the situation.
In fact, in an apparent jab at the FAA, Amazon has setup a trial flight program and operation just across the border in British Columbia with support from the Canadian government — all within walking distance of the U.S.
How drone delivery could impact your business
Have you considered the impact drone usage could have on your business? This new technology has the potential to add jobs, increase productivity and boost customer service. Companies that decide to add drone delivery to their offerings will need operators, technicians and additional project management professionals in order to provide top-level service. But when they are now able to deliver products much faster than their competitors, customer service and satisfaction will go up.
When it comes to productivity, drone delivery can essentially get rid of downtime. Technology doesn’t always cooperate. When a new part is needed to fix broken equipment, a drone can get you what you need in a fraction of the time compared to current ordering methods. That means you’re back online much faster.
It’s indeed a fascinating world of technological innovation that we live in, and while regulations have currently stymied Amazon’s plans in the U.S., it’s entirely likely that something will give in the future, making it possible for a variation of its plans to take shape.
What are your thoughts on unmanned drone delivery? Would you pay extra for that kind of service? Does the thought of robots dropping things at your doorstep terrify you? Weigh-in below in the comments section!
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