The unpersonal Postman

In December 2013, the delivery giant Amazon revealed that it was working on small, unmanned aerial vehicles, otherwise known as drones, that would deliver packages to customers’ homes. This service,  called Prime Air, would pick up packages at Amazon fulfillment centers with a drone with the goal of delivering them to household front doors within half an hour. Amazon said the drones will have a 10-mile radius. So, it’s likely that people in big areas near a Amazon distribution site will be a lot more likely to be in the range than those in more remote areas. The weight they are going to carry will be up to 5 pounds, what will be around 86% of all freights in the United States.

The legal perspective

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)  is yet to approve the use of unmanned drones for civilian purposes.  However Amazon is still waiting for the approval from the FAA for public testing of those drones. This airspaced is expected to be free in the US by this year. In Europe it is said to be 2016. The rules that exist by now are only for protection for the people on the ground.

The government agency is concerned of the impact it could have on public air space and safety on the ground and will only allow licenses after strict review. A proposal of the FAA for example was limiting drone flights to an altitude of 500 feet and a speed of no faster than 150 km/h. The pilot or operator would have to be at least 17 years old, has to have passed an aeronautical knowledge test and obtained an FAA operator certificate.


Even if it is somehow strange to us, that maybe in the next two years ordered packages will be delivered by unmanned drones, I for myself find it very interesting. On the one hand, how exactly this will pay off. Because I guess, that the saving due to the missing delivery companies can be huge, but the maintenance and loss of such devices can be very expensive as well. On the other hand the concern I have is, that if governments allow amazon to let their drones fly, others will follow. And this opens the sky for abuse.


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