Even if Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was serious, his surprise plan to deliver packages by flying drones probably won’t get off the ground for quite a while. That’s according to regulators and experts who have been watching the evolution of drone technology and politics from its earliest days.
“The challenge here is not the technologic capability, it’s figuring out how the law, the policy and the market all work together,” Peter W. Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, told DNews. “There are a host of policy and legal issues to work out here; everything from de-conflicting airspace to licensing to insurance, to the threat side of this.”
Since drones were invented a few years ago, they’ve been used almost exclusively by the Pentagon and scientists. First, engineers built them to check on enemy territory, then configured to drop weapons, now to moving cargo -- such as the Marines' unmanned K-MAX helicopter ferrying supplies in Afghanistan.
The military’s deployment of drones in the past decade has paralleled their use by researchers to track endangered species, check on ripening crops or sample remote areas for environmental contaminants.
But Bezos’ announcement marks a tectonic shift. It’s the first time that a major business leader who is also outside the aerospace industry has touted drones as a purely commercial solution to the age-old question of how to deliver goods to customers quickly and accurately.
But here’s why you won’t see any hovering drone deliverers anytime soon.