Drones could be the future of our delivery services, but the drones are already ‘obsolete,’ according to Amazon.
Back in 2013, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, appeared on the American magazine television program – 60 minutes – to reveal a new delivery service called ‘Amazon Prime Air’. It was said that the futuristic delivery system would utilize GPS to autonomously fly individual packages to customers’ doorsteps within 30 minutes of ordering. However, there were some limitations to this, which included the package being small enough to fit inside of the cargo box the drone would carry as well as the delivery location being within 10 miles of a participating Amazon order centre.
Despite legal limitations regarding the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and public concerns, Amazon successfully made prototypes of the drone, but unfortunately due to a long awaited response with the FAA to give Amazon approval to test them, Amazon have said the drones have become ‘obsolete’.[divider]The delayed response[/divider]
In the United States of America, commercial use of UAV technology is not yet legal which meant Amazon had to wait for the FAA to give approval before they could start testing it. It is believed that in the FAA Modernisation and Reform Act of 2012, Congress issued the FAA a deadline of the 30th September 2015 to accomplish a ‘safe integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system’, to which Amazon responded: ‘We hope the FAA’s rules will be in place as early as sometime in 2015. We will be ready at that time’.
It seems, though, the wait was too long as the drone the FAA approved only last week is already out-of-date. Amazon’s vice president, Paul Misener, said: ‘this approval came last Thursday, and we’re eager to get flying here as we have been abroad…’
‘…while the FAA was considering our applications for testing, we innovated so rapidly that the drone approved last week by the FAA has become obsolete. We don’t test it anymore’.
He continued by stating: ‘we’ve moved on to more advanced designs that we are already testing abroad’.
Amazon criticized the government as it is believed the FAA took more than one and a half years to give the permissions to use a specific model of the drone; whereas it didn’t take more than a couple of months to get approval overseas.[divider]Opportunities elsewhere [/divider]
Due to Amazon testing their drones outside of the United States, they have recently warned Congress that the US risks being left behind in the delivery drone industry, which means the US economy could lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars of investment.
Misener said: ‘this low level of government attention and slow pace are inadequate, especially compared to the regulatory efforts in other countries… the FAA already has adequate statutory authority. What the FAA needs is impetus’.
Misener argued that other countries have taken a much more ‘reasonable’ approach and recognised the potential economic benefits of the delivery service. It is believed that the drones could generate around $14 billion in the first 3 years of integration and $28 billion over a decade.
One of the places this delivery service could really benefit from is the United Kingdom. Dr. Ravi Vaidyanathan, a senior lecturer in robotics at the Imperial College of London, said concerns over the restrictive US policies could provide an opportunity for the UK. ‘For commercial growth, it probably does provide opportunity because companies can do more, so they can gauge more of the market and the likely impact’.
Margaret Gilligan, the FAA’s associate administrator for aviation safety, said the US airspace was more complex than that of other countries; however regulators could set new standards for autonomous drone operations within a year.
With this in mind, it doesn’t look like we will be receiving our post via drones any time soon. Even though the drones have been created and are currently being tested in various countries, it seems like some rules will have to be modified in order to make this business become a reality.
What are your thoughts on this process? Do you think a year and a half was too long to wait for approval? Would you ever consider using this service in the near future? Tweet @TechFlyOfficial to let us know what you think, as well as keep up to date on new articles and news that may follow.