Thursday, April 17, 2014
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EDIT: Droning on about the future

Instant gratification is no longer exclusively for music and movie downloads. Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos announced Sunday that the online shipping company is developing autonomous drones that will fly goods to deliver a customer’s DVDs, cameras and baby apparel in a half hour if the customers are within 10 miles of a distribution center. Essentially, lucky customers within the boundaries for drones will be fortunate enough to purchase actual goods without leaving their computer chairs.

Bezos hopes to get this program up and running within 5 years. The delivery-by-drone system, however, will not overshadow traditional delivery methods. Because of technological restrictions, the United State Postal Service, Federal Express and United Postal Service do not need to hold their breath. Current technology restricts these electronic drones to a point where only customers within the 10-mile limit of a warehouse or distribution center will receive lighter packages by air.

Amazon Prime will not be the first program of its kind in the United States, though. The Domino’s pizza franchise experimented with drones back in January of this year. Back in 2012, the Tacocopter graced the planet and delivered sumptuous burritos through a smartphone app for a short time. Using drones commercially as opposed to for surveillance or on battlefields is a growing trend, and because there is already media focus on drones, they are a brilliant addition to any corporate plan.

Commandeering drone technology in itself makes for incredible advertising. The venture garnered a gross amount of media attention, probably because the announcement was so tactfully planned. While people scour the Internet on Cyber Monday, they are destined to stumble across a story about the new drones delivering that shinyXbox One. People are so excited about Internet deals they do not see how drone technology could potentially be dangerous.

As exciting as innovation is, people should be way of what drones are capable of. Americans are already paranoid, especially about surveillance. Innovation is exciting, but are people ready for unmanned miniature helicopters flying around out neighborhoods?

What if the drone lands in a person’s yard within a few feet of a child playing outside? They fly by four powerful propellers. What if a delivery is miscalculated and the drones lose battery power? Trigger-happy Americans could also see these drones as target practice. These are a variety of issues we could expect Bezos and his team to work out, but then again, children should be nowhere near four spinning propellers strong enough to lift a drone and your new socks.

Bezos appears to be showing off, but he and his company thrive off ideas such as this. The Bezos Family Foundation invited 17 exceptional high school students and 13 educators to attend a symposium in Aspen, Colo. to discuss putting business ideas into action. The Bezos Scholars come from places such as New York and Johannesburg, South Africa. Let’s face it. He’s a good businessman and he’s great with public relations.

But how else are businesses, both large and small, going to innovate delivery systems in the future? Granted gifts will not fall from the sky à la Santa or The Hunger Games, but this venture opens the doors for retailers throughout the world to begin thinking about more autonomous methods to deliver their products. While Amazon will not the be first using drone technology for business, the attention it will get even by delivering goods a short distance to a limited customer base is cool enough to inspire more businesses.

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