By JENNA ROSENTHAL
Drones and robots used to be science fiction and could only be found in video games and futuristic movies, but now, that fiction is becoming reality. After years of research and after a few more years of testing, drones may become a part of everyday life. On 60 minutes, Amazon C.E.O. Jeff Bezos revealed a secret Research and Development project: the “octocopter.”
The octocopter is a new drone that is part of a service called Amazon Prime Air and can deliver packages to your front door within 30 minutes of clicking “buy.” Bezos explained that the drones will pick up orders (up to five pounds) in small yellow buckets and deliver them to customers. According to cbsnews.com, this project may become available in the next four to five years. Amazon.com states that their goal of this new delivery system is to “get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles.”
It will take some time until the Amazon drones are successfully functioning. According to cnn.com, Bezos said that, “I don’t want anybody to think this is right around the corner.” There are many problems that the octocopters could encounter that have not been attended to by Amazon. As of now, the octocopter will only have a 10-mile radius; they will be convenient for people who live within 10 miles of an Amazon distribution site, but will be virtually useless to anyone else. Also, the battery life is only 30 minutes long and could possibly be even shorter depending on the weight of the packages. If the drones are expected to make deliveries in 30 minutes, customers may end up with a dead drone on their doorstep along with their purchase. The drones also could malfunction in bad weather, limiting the days when they would be able to make deliveries. When asked about his biggest concern of the new drones, senior Nguyen Ha said, “Probably safety. What if my delivery lands on someone?” Another big concern is people shooting down the flying octocopters. If a person is walking down the street and sees a drone flying above, what’s to stop him or her from shooting it down and stealing the package? Missy Cummings, an associate professor at M.I.T. said that the drones need to be able to fly at an altitude of at least 300 feet to avoid standard BB and pellet guns, but even that may not be enough.
Amazon is not the first company to attempt a drone delivery service. CNN.com said that some companies already have implemented the technique, or are at least toying with the idea. Domino’s has made two drone pizza deliveries in the United Kingdom and an Australian textbook company is already using drones for deliveries as well. According to usatoday.com, the Federal Aviation Administration currently restricts drone usage to public entities like the police force. Amazon would not be allowed to implement their drone delivery system now, but they expect that Congress will change the laws soon.
Usatoday.com also said that Amazon hopes that seeing drones in the air will be as common as seeing mail trucks on the road. Sophomore Feihong Rodell said, “I don’t think that the drone system [as a common delivery method] is a good idea because there could be glitches or something else could go wrong. Also, there will be fewer jobs.” Other people cannot wait for the new system to be implemented. Sophomore Sam Wirth said, “I would definitely use the drone deliveries because they are cool! They would probably decrease shopping time and increase efficiency.”
Drones could also have other purposes. Cummings hopes that the new drone technology will be used for beneficial purposes other than Amazon deliveries. “Medical supplies, wildlife monitoring, cargo, firefighting — it’s a pretty long list of things that drones can do,” she said. “It’s reinvigorating a dying aerospace industry.” For those who are worried about the impact of the drone deliveries, Amazon still has a long way to go, but for those excited about the octocopter, the drones are on their way to becoming the newest form of delivery.