One thing was made clear at CES – drones are here to stay. Dave Vos, head of Google X’s Project Wing experimental drone delivery program, speaking at an aviation industry event in Washington, claims that deliveries will happen as earlier as next year. He said, “Moving people and stuff around the planet in an efficient way is where I want to get.” He acknowledges that many obstacles must be overcome and deliveries will start with larger commercial applications, but believes that if the private sector and the government can work together that in the next one to three years drones will deliver business supplies, toothbrushes, coffee beans or maybe even your favorite beer just in time for the big game.
Google has been working with delivery drones for the past three years, but UPS, FedEx, Amazon and Wal-Mart are all reportedly developing their own fleet of drones. So much shopping is done online and items shipped directly to your door, the possible cost savings is enough incentive to explore drone options. There are obstacles, such as the public’s fear of drones buzzing all around – new technology always causes a panic – but Vos claims that they will be safer than general aviation and will operate so quietly that they will not disturb the public. Government regulations are needed to address certain fears – flying too close to commercial aircraft – more than 100 sightings a month are reported, flying too low, flying at night and how far they can fly out of the operator’s vision. There are also different regulations needed for a drone being used for a commercial business or one being used for personal enjoyment. The question of registration also comes into effect – certainly ones that travel distances would need to be registered, but what about someone that just wants a small drone to fly around the house?
Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta said last week that he expects they will finalize drone rules for commercial use by late spring. In October 2015, the FAA asked a handful of drone makers and advocates – Google was included – to help create rules and regulations. There are already 181,000 drones registered in its database in just a couple of months. Vos points to this as an example of how the government and private sectors can work together to solve the questions brought up by drone usage and help get them to the point of actually using drones for deliveries. Looking into the future Google and Vos believe that drone technology is advancing so rapidly that in the future, drones will not only carry small personal items to your doorstep or place of business, but they also envision a giant drone picking you up – like a taxi – and shuttling you off to your destination!