Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS), also known as drones, are "aircraft" either controlled by a "pilot" on the ground or increasingly, autonomously, following a pre-programmed "mission," and if Amazon or UPS get their way, that mission may be to your geographical address - right to your front porch (OK, maybe your yard or roof). These drones or octocopters, to be more exact, are being looked into by both United Parcel Service (UPS) and Amazon Prime to deliver small packages (up to 5 pounds) in as little as 30 minutes - and now the U.S. Senate will be holding hearings to look into it as well.
Most people think of a drone as an unmanned aircraft, the size of a small jet or plane, used by the government to spy on our enemies, or even on its own citizens. Some are able to not only fly to specific targets, but are also equipped to drop a bomb or fire a rocket at its target. When Amazon released the video (shown below) on the news, people realized, for the first time, of how small a drone can be - actually they can be much smaller, but that is another story - and how they could serve a function much like out of a science fiction novel or movie. What Amazon Founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, was talking about on 60 Minutes is still 4-5 years into the future as they work out all of the legalities and details.
It is not like they are not already to be used - they have been used for years on movie sets to film close aerial shots - if you saw the last James Bond movie, Skyfall, there was a motorcycle chase over some rooftops that was filmed by a drone with a movie camera. The other night on NBC World News, anchor Brian Williams, noted that they were used on their news set for aerial shots. These drones have been around for years and are pretty reliable - it is not as if the "kinks" need worked out - what needs to be considered is public safety for pre-programmed destinations miles away from the facility sending the item. There could be children playing in the area of the drone's landing, what about lawn decorations, Christmas lights, or thieves that may try to steal the drone or shot it down from the sky - clay pigeon style.
Another obstacle is how do they know where to go, exactly - we realize that they would be programmed, but to go where? A specific address? Would the drone then use a "Google Map" type system, because I know that our address was changed over 5 years ago by the emergency services when they renamed roads and house numbers to make it easier for them, and people still have to program their GPSs to our old address! Would our package go down the street to our neighbors house; although it would be about as accurate as the postal deliveries in our complex. I know our neighbor is an Amazon Prime customer, so I suppose the Prime customers could be sent out a "homing" type device that would direct the drone to the proper address, but what about if you need a UPS delivery, or how about making sure your pepperoni pizza isn't delivered to your neighbors! Possibly those of us that would like to receive deliveries this way, may all have to get a beacon installed on our roofs.
The Senate hearing will be held early next year and even though we do not like the government involved in our lives, but this is something that will definitely need regulated as more and more companies decide to use a drone for deliveries. Amazon claims that 86-percent of their packages would fit the drone delivery criteria, provided the delivery is no more than 10 miles away from one of their 100 distribution centers in the U.S. There could be a lot of drones flying around - it seems as though you could need an air traffic controller. You certainly would not want your pizza delivery colliding with the wrinkle cream your ordered from Amazon - talk about a mess.
Let us know in the comments or on Google+ your feelings on these delivery drones - are you for or against them. Pollution may be reduced from fewer trucks on the road, but what about the other environmental concerns with birds, etc. Please let us know your feelings on the use of drones as we would love to hear from you.