Opinion » Dot Comrade

Droning on about drones and consumerism



Drones. They are the future and the future is now. While they may have a reputation for being death machines often employed by the U.S. to perform (im)precise strikes in the Middle East, several companies around the globe are now looking to the flying devices as a means for delivering goods to consumers.

The big announcement came from Amazon following Black Friday, during which the company let it be known that they were seriously considering launching the use of drones for delivering small packages sometime in 2015. The service would be called Amazon Prime Air and would allow for same-day delivery of smaller items to customers.

In Amazon's announcement video, a customer is shown ordering something online and that order being swiftly fulfilled in the Amazon warehouse. The package is then picked up by a drone and is flown to the customer's backyard, where it drops the package off and promptly returns to the mothership.

According to Amazon's announcement, "The goal of this new delivery system is to get packages into customers' hands in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles."

Of course, Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos said the company was still in the early stages of figuring out the logistics of such a service. Those details include how to stop people from shooting down the drones, how to stop people from stealing the packages once they've been delivered and how to get the delivery boxes back to the warehouse.

Following Amazon's announcement, customs-charge happy delivery company DHL also announced they were looking into the use of drones for deliver, but used an example of delivering medicine to hospitals as a practical use. But while Amazon actually seems committed to making drone delivery a reality, DHL said they were just testing out the method and that there were no concrete plans in place to go ahead with it at this time. At least they get bonus points for opting away from using drones for either death or consumerism.

But back to Amazon, a company that is big enough and rich enough to make such an initiative a reality. Before drones begin to flood the skies, Amazon will have to seek FAA approval in the U.S. and will likely need to receive some sort of approval from Transport Canada within our borders.

In Canada, laws surrounding the use of drones are vague at best and many enthusiasts have taken up the hobby of modifying and flying drones much like those with model helicopters or airplanes. Indeed, Canadians can purchase drones online or at specialty stores right now and take them out for a test spin. A quick visit to YouTube shows numerous videos of people experimenting with modified homebrew drones. In fact, one of my colleagues has a dad who's very much into tinkering with drones and he's threatened to test out his own delivery methods by flying a pizza from Surrey to Delta. This is real life, folks.

I'm pretty weary about the whole idea as the conspiracy theorist in me wonders what's to stop spying, attacks and thefts via drones. Sure it would be nice to have my book order arrive in 30 minutes, but not at the cost of also having eyes (police or not) in the sky watching every move I make. But hey, that's just me.

But for now, the skies remain largely drone free. Until very recently we haven't had to worry about airspace traffic or anything clogging up the skies, apart from the odd helium balloon or kites.

Now, what once might have seemed like something out of science fiction is very quickly becoming a reality, thanks to consumerism.