As I was running in the park last weekend, I made the acquaintance of a kid, about six or seven years old, playing with two remote control cars. I rounded the playground area, and he smiled cheerfully and asked if I would like to play. He had two cars, monster trucks, and he was hopeful for a new opponent. I guess his Dad didn’t have the killer instinct he was searching for, and he thought a random runner might do. I declined tactfully, but thanked him for the opportunity. I continued to lap the track, and as I was finishing up, I saw that he had tired of the cars and replaced them with a little white drone. He carried it gingerly off to the baseball field, where he set it up to fly around in the outfield.
Drones, also known as UAV’s, are making their way into civilian life at brisk pace. Not the military planes used in tactics overseas, these are the light-weight little multi-armed flying machines with motors. For a society that is adamant about their right to privacy, with a heady dislike of surveillance, the American public is strangely welcoming of these mini-copters with video cameras winging their way across parks, beaches, concerts and sporting events. Perhaps it is the potential these little robots have for assistance in practical uses: security surveillance for police and firemen, inspection of power lines, film making, search and rescue missions, journalism and surveying. Perhaps it is simply because they are the go-pro that can film from above.
Kid and adult approved tinker drones.
The new drones buzz is the Amazon project: the use of “octocopter” drones that will theoretically fly packages to a doorstep under 30 minutes. Like something off the pages of a science fiction novel, the drone will acquire the ordered item in a yellow Amazon bucket at a warehouse fulfillment center and fly it to the doorstep of the customer. How is that for speedy service? Ordering a new t-shirt or the next book in the series you are reading will take the same amount of effort and wait time as ordering a delivery pepperoni pizza. There would be instant gratification.
Like the little whizzing care package capsules in The Hunger Games novels and films, there is great potential for drone delivery. Imagine a single parent nursing a sick child in need of Pedialyte? Imagine someone with a physical disability in urgent need of a product? This also opens up the realm of having a product delivered to you outside of your home, at another address or location. Drones have the capability of being revolutionary.
Amazon delivery practice.
Drawbacks? There are some. Amazon sales statistics for 2015 gross sales are noted at $88 billion. Amazon’s share of Black Friday ecommerce sales for 2015 was 35.7%. For a shopper who completed 20% of their Christmas shopping on Amazon, I understand the ease and dependability. I also understand that by using Amazon, local stores are losing revenue while I am saving. A redeeming thought I cling to is that at least the shipping of the boxes and wares from Amazon generates work at the post offices and delivery companies. The use of drones means ease and convenience for me, the shopper, but economically this has the potential to take a tiny bite out of the local workforce and economic stimulation. Of course, the drone can only carry light purchases, and heavier or more cumbersome packages would have to be shipped anyway.
Another query is about the dependability of the shipping method. I have faith in the technology of drones, but perhaps not in the pranksters and tricksters who will want to experiment with them. A CNN article reports that the drones will monitor for humans and animals in their paths, reassess paths in accordance with weather conditions, and maintain a safe distance above busy highways and intersections. I wonder about how sturdy drones are, and whether people will busy themselves in attempts to knock them out of the sky and retrieve another customer’s item. Will a customer have to sign for an item? Would a customer have the opportunity to tinker with a drone while the drone was dropping a package at their home? If the equipment to maintain the drones is costly, this may interfere with the affordability of drone delivery.
In a world where a six year old can play with a drone in a park, a corporation such as Amazon probably has the means and motives to put these little gems of technology to good work delivering. The effectiveness of this new venture is yet to be seen, but we have already seen that a drone can by mighty. Where the human can’t go, where the job is too dirty, dull or perilous, the drone delivers.