It seems like for a while now there has been talk of packages being delivered by drone. Usually associated with Amazon, it has appeared to be just a matter of time before our orders started dropping in from the sky.
Yet even as drones have increased in quality and are more popular than ever, for some reason our deliveries are still being made by people driving around trucks or vans who may or may not actually go to the right address. Remember that order you never got? Someone did.
Anyway, there are many reasons to want drone deliveries to arrive, and it looks like we are closer to it becoming a reality than ever before. In fact, with some help, we could see it in the next few months.
Winds have shifted in favor of drones
While companies like Amazon have been pushing for drone delivery service, the U.S. has been slow to pick up on the concept. However, with government backing, that has changed, as there is better cooperation between the two sides.
What's changed? Apparently, unlike in the past, there is now a strong belief that the technology is on the verge of being ready to go, possibly as soon as this summer.
Of course, there are still plenty of hurdles in the way. The FAA needs to figure out ways in which drone pilots can be properly trained, though as of now there are set to be more than 10 FAA-approved pilot programs regarding drones, some of which probably involve package delivery.
Along with the FAA gearing up, it is being reported that Amazon has been pushing for safety approval of specific drone designs with operating rules. While nothing is set in stone as far as when, where and how, where there's smoke there is often fire, and there is plenty of smoke surrounding the idea of drone deliveries happening soon.
Talk about the idea, from both the government and businesses, has focused on making sure drones can operate safely. After all, no one wants them falling from the sky or dropping their items on unsuspecting people or buildings. Also, assuming everything gets delivered safely and accurately, there is the matter of informing someone that the package has been dropped off.
All of these are valid concerns, though regulators in other countries have moved much more quickly than the U.S. in trying to get answers and push the concept forward. Part of the difference is that some of the other countries have specific drone-delivery areas, whereas the FAA is trying to figure out how they can fly all over the United States.
Studies like that take time, but with pressure coming from higher levels of the government, the process is speeding up. None of it will happen if the technology cannot be proven to be safe, however.
If drones take to the sky, what might they do for us?
Even if the government and businesses do figure it out, you probably should not expect giant boxes to be flying overhead anytime soon. According to Amazon, their goal with "Amazon Prime Air" is to pick up packages weighing up to five pounds from their distribution centers and deliver them to places within a 20-mile radius. The technology has been in the works for a while now, and it looks like this:
Amazon is not alone in trying to master the technology, as traditional delivery companies like UPS and DHL have also been testing the idea of drone deliveries. Drone deliveries will make it so packages can arrive more quickly than if they were being delivered by truck, and the ability to fly should allow for items to be dropped off in more remote locations.
Drones are not likely to totally replace drivers
Even if the technology gets approved, you are not likely to see drones take over for birds in terms of flying around overhead. Local governments will have to be convinced -- or convince their constituents -- that the drones will be safe, not invade their privacy, fly quietly and otherwise not be intrusive in any way. Assuming they can get that figured out, there is still the matter of the drones not being able to fly with and deliver heavier packages.
Regardless of all that, it's pretty clear delivery-by-drone is in our future. There are plenty of questions that still need to be answered, but that they are even being asked means answers -- and a solution -- are likely soon to follow.
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