It is not the first time we have heard of a company attempting to use drones to send packages. Jeff Bezos from Amazon was the first to unveil plans for a new package drone to deliver parcels. He is not the last person to have this vision of drones flying around making deliveries across the world. The biggest challenge faced by these visionaries is the legislation and regulations in regards to flying and airspace. Now another big player has unveiled its new drone initiative, only this time it is the mammoth corporation Google.
This turn of events has the potential to turn the package drone dream into reality. Google has not only the financial means but also the lobbying power to push forward the process of regulation review and amendment. In some ways it is scary how much influence a large multinational can have on current national regulations, however if they do manage to successfully have the drone restrictions lifted, we may soon be receiving a knock on our door from our friendly neighbourhood Amazon package drone.
Since June, the US Federal Aviation Administration has received approximately 30 or so requests to fly drones commercially, from companies involved with agriculture to aerial surveying. Even Disney is getting into the action as it has applied for 3 drone patents. However the FAA are not likely to bend, arguing that drones would need to be manually driven as currently there is nothing stopping them from hitting cars, trees, power lines or even people. Better navigation tools will need to be developed before this idea can get off the ground (pun completely intended).
The FAA plans to propose rules for small flying drones in November this year and will most likely finalize them in 2 years’ time. This is partly because they don’t really know that much about drones and the practical considerations surrounding drone flight in urban airspace. The drone industry has expressed concern that countries such as the US may be falling behind other countries like Australia who have much lighter regulations. However, Google’s announcement is definitely good news, seeing as they have a 50 billion dollar bank account and have had previous experience in influencing regulations on automated machinery – I am of course referring to none other than the Google self-driving car.
Currently Google has hired lawyers to lobby government officials on civilian use of drones as have Amazon and other drone companies. This means that we may not be so far off the futuristic drone delivery systems envisioned above. Imagine a world where you could order your favourite book or a new t-shirt from Amazon. As soon as you have paid for your items and the order is registered, Amazon sends a drone out to deliver your package in a matter of minutes. Of course there would be GPS systems in place that would let you track your drone and see how far away it is from your doorstep. From a business perspective, this would be a quicker and more cost effective solution for logistics and delivery.