It sounds like something seen in a sci-fi movie from the 1980s — “Blade Runner,” perhaps or even more ominous, “The Terminator.” But it’s no movie, or joke. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said last week his company is developing flying robots to deliver packages straight to the front doors of the company’s eager customers.
Bezos unveiled his drone-based delivery system, which he has dubbed Prime Air, during an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Dec. 1. He told interviewer Charlie Rose he is “optimistic” the delivery service can be up and running within five years.
The flying delivery drones — also known as octocopters — will be capable of carrying items up to 5 pounds in weight, which Bezos said account for 86 percent of the items that his company ships. Individual items will be flown from one of the company’s 96 large warehouses, which Amazon calls “fulfillment centers.”
The idea of the drones, Bezos said, is to get a purchase to its destination within 30 minutes of the customer’s purchase online.
Bezos told Rose that much more safety testing and approval from the Federal Aviation Administration would be needed before the Prime Air fleet is approved for flight.
“The hard part here is putting in all the redundancy,” Bezos said. “All the reliability to say this can’t land on somebody’s head.”
Reactions to the concept of flying delivery drones have been mixed. Some Americans say they like the idea of getting orders to their homes in such a fast fashion, calling it the wave of the future.
Critics, however, are skeptical that the technology can be cleared for approval in less than a decade. And when it is, they fear octocopters could be used for government spying, as well as delivering Amazon purchases.
There are also questions concerning the security and safety of the drones. How will the recipient sign for his or her package? What will it mean to aviation safety to have dozens of delivery drones flying through communities?
And what would happen if the machines decide to take over the world, as was the dystopian future pictured in “The Terminator?” OK, that is a bit far-fetched and probably wouldn’t happen — at least not in the near future.
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