Drones: In the Sky for Sure

October 2, 2020

The US Federal Aviation Authority has decided the concept of drone deliveries is safe enough to grant Amazon Prime Air permission to fly beyond visual line of sight. But did the agency consider everything? Diginomica discusses some concerns in the article, “More Drones in the Sky in One Day than Planes in a Year—Amazonian Number-Crunching.”

The drones in question will carry small packages, up to 5 lbs. Reporter Chris Middleton estimates drone deliveries would mean about 4,500 drones in each city, constantly buzzing and swooping about our streets just to deliver things one could get by going down to the corner store (if such a thing continues to exist.) Sure, the project makes sense for the disabled or folks out in the country, but not for everyone else, Middleton maintains.

Any environmental boons from fewer delivery vehicles on the road must be weighed against the impact of building and disposing of drones and drone batteries. Then there are safety concerns—there are many creatures and things drones could crash into out there. Also, humans being what they are, drones will inevitably be targets for theft and sabotage. Furthermore, current aviation rules are designed for traditional air traffic; fleets of cloud-connected drones and, down the line, flying taxies will complicate matters in ways we have yet to imagine. The author summarizes:

“Small, lightweight drones are a harbinger of larger ones that will carry more items, heavier goods, or people – pilotless air taxis are being tested in several parts of the world. So it’s common sense to ask whether most people would tolerate the skies over their towns and cities being full of even small rotorcraft, each carrying a bottle of soda or some bananas…. “Is this a world that we really want to live in? Isn’t the idea itself just a bunch of bananas, lacking in any semblance of common sense? At this point it’s worth remembering that Amazon – like Google, UPS, and FedEx – is a US company designing things for a world that looks like America: a huge land mass, open spaces, grid-like cities with hundreds of miles between them, long straight roads, and thousands of rural communities. In that world, drone deliveries make perfect sense, and the same applies to China. But in densely-populated European countries, with their ageing cities and creaking infrastructures, the concept is a less easy fit. Taken together, the constant risk, noise nuisance, and intrusion into people’s lives seem extreme – all to deliver items that you could pick up from a local shop.”

Middleton concludes with a hope—that it does not take a disaster before regulatory agencies carefully consider the potential ramifications of giving the likes of Amazon, UPS, FedEx free rein throughout our skies.

Cynthia Murrell, October 1, 2020


2 Responses to “Drones: In the Sky for Sure”

  1. Jack Bauer on October 3rd, 2020 9:58 am

    What today may be for “bananas” may easily turn into surveillance and policing with drone “soldiers” everywhere.

    Beware of the underlying more nefarious purpose, especially when the actor has a history of the same!

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