Amazon wowed the world late last year with its demonstration of Amazon Prime Air, an exclusive service which promised to deliver parcels rapidly to subscribers via drones. In a proof of concept video we watched a quadrocopter drone deliver a parcel in minutes from an Amazon warehouse to a happy buyer.
After Amazon confirmed that they were deadly seriously about the idea, we all began to get very excited by the potential of this technology. Unfortunately, the idea has gone from deadly serious, to just plain dead.
The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has released a new 17 page document governing the legal uses of personal drones and model aircraft. Within this document, the wording explicitly states that its is prohibited to use “model aircraft” (including drones) for “delivering packages to people for a fee”.
While these regulations are new, they shouldn’t come as much of a shock to Amazon, which had previously stated that Prime Air’s roll-out would be conditional on new regulations from the FAA.
In the last few years the agency has been taking an increasingly harsh line on drone use, which has been outlawed commercially since 2007. As well as delivery, drones are also banned from being used to survey farms and to take aerial photography.
Despite this, drones have huge promise - multiple sectors of the economy could improve their productivity through the smart use of drones in place of aircraft and logistical vehicles. The best bet for Amazon and other company’s to overturn these anti-drone laws will be in 2015, when the FAA has announced they will be willing to review them and reconsider opening up the airways to unmanned vehicles.
With this in mind, drone delivery is not dead yet, but should companies like Amazon, fails to argue the case for drones in the next year, and the FAA does not change its mind, then the idea will die a final sad death.