I am all for technological advancement and making life more efficient but there are some things about which I am deeply sceptical and one of them is delivery by drone. Amazon have announced their intension to deliver goods by drone in the near future and claim that they will be ready to go as soon as the necessary rules and regulations are in place. As the authorities expect to open airspace to civilian drones as early as 2015 we could be on the verge of a delivery revolution. There are, however, some potential issues with the service.
On the face of it drones could relieve our busy roads of some traffic which would be a welcome development but one has to ask how busy the skies will get instead. I have visions of my horizon being blighted by hundreds of these little machines and as they as yet are not sophisticated enough to avoid hitting a person one wonders how they will manage to avoid each other. There could be mid-air collisions all over the places raining packages down on our heads and we might have to don safety equipment just to leave the house.
I also have concerns about their navigation. Hopefully they will prove to be more proficient at finding their intended destination than a typical Sat Nav. Whilst my own Tom Tom usually directs me to roughly the right place and often exactly the right place it does have the occasional mare and sends me towards a quarry pit or into a field. I am usually astute enough to spot the problem and stop before I plunge over the precipice but a drone probably won’t realise a gross error and will just drop the package where it sees fit. One human error in entering an address could lead to disaster.
If the drone does manage to find the right location what happens then?
A video posted by Amazon shows a drone simply dropping a package outside of a domestic property. That is great if it is the right house and if the recipient is aware of the arrival but what happens if they don’t notice that they have had a visit? The drone can’t ring the doorbell so the parcel just sits around outside until someone notices. If it was my driveway the thing would probably get run over before anyone has noted its presence. Who is responsible for the goods after the drone has dropped them? If the delivery was to a busy company it could be squashed under the wheels of an articulated lorry and obliterated without anyone being any the wiser. You can’t sign for the packages so how do you prove or disprove a delivery?
Whilst an incoming drone may not be obvious to a householder who is indoors it will be rather on display to everyone else. Will these things not be intercepted by the unscrupulous and possibly even brought down deliberately? If their systems were hacked they could be redirected and it wouldn’t take much to bring them down. Most of the parcels will be relatively low value items but people are going to be seriously pissed if their valuable new watch or tablet is hijacked in mid-air.
I am sure that the likes of Amazon have considered these issues but I would love to know what they propose to do about them. Are we to have indestructible drones like Robocop that take defensive action when attacked? Will users of the service be equipped with a gadget to unlock a bullet proof box? I guess all issues can be over-come but at what price? After all the delivery cost has got to be proportionate to the value of the item. I wouldn’t pay a fortune to have a book delivered and I suspect no one else would either and so it seems to me that the service would only be justifiable for pricey goods making it all the more vulnerable to attack. Time will tell but this could all prove to be a false dawn.
Sally Stacey is a keen writer and business ower who divdes her time between writing and running her shop.