Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Drone delivery, as seen in movies like Blade Runner 2049, may soon become a reality. as commercial giant Amazon is now one step closer to using drone delivery to deliver Prime products all around the United States.
Amazon recently received federal approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which they needed in order to start operating drone delivery services. In order to receive the certificate, Amazon conducted over 500 safety and proficiency processes over the course of 7 years.
The certificate Amazon received is called a FAA Part 135 air carrier certificate, which gives the official recognition of an “air carrier” to Amazon. However, this type of certification isn’t like other air carriers like Delta and United, as this certificate is specific to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which is what Amazon’s drones are designated as.
Image From Jordan Stead/Amazon
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos first introduced the idea of drone delivery in 2013, and it was eventually named Prime Air. His goal was to “deliver packages up to five pounds in 30 minutes or less using small drones.” In an interview, he hoped it would be available in as little as four to five years, but a commercial version has yet to appear.
In 2016, the first prototype was introduced at one of Amazon’s many testing facilities in Cambridge, England. This trip took 13 minutes to complete and the technology used back in 2016 has vastly improved as Amazon has continued testing.
Although Amazon acquired FAA approval, Bloomberg warns that there are still many more hurdles, regulations, and safety procedures that Amazon needs to pass before the drone can be implemented commercially. The FAA plans to finish its official rules on commercial drone use by 2024. Thus, it would be no sooner than 4 years, given Amazon accepts these regulations before using its drone commercially. However, this immediate acceptance is unlikely, due to these many regulations.
Another potential obstacle is drone delivery will actually find an audience. Amazon has yet to test drone delivery on any customers, so it is unknown if any customers will utilize it in the first place.
Regardless of the obstacles that hinder the notion of drone delivery in the mainstream market, the Vice President of Prime Air David Carbon remains hopeful. “We will continue to develop and refine our technology to fully integrate delivery drones into the airspace, and work closely with the F.A.A. and other regulators around the world to realize our vision of 30-minute delivery,” Carbon said.
Through Teen Lenses: What do you think about Amazon delivering packages using drones? Do you feel like you would benefit from drone delivery?
“I think that drone deliveries, even if it is just for packages under 5 pounds, could really benefit most of the apps’ users, as it would come in 30 minutes. It could save hundreds of people the time of running to the nearest store if all they need is an item or two as soon as possible. Personally, as a student going into their first year of high school, there were a lot of questions left unanswered in regards to what supplies were needed before school started. Although I did make a trip for supplies, I wasn’t able to get the specific materials needed for each class, such as a compass, protractor, and a ruler for my math class. Along with school starting this month, all other sports and classes between my younger brother and I have also resumed, making it very difficult for my parents to make another trip to Target to buy these 3 items, especially as I need most of them immediately. With just a couple taps on their phone, my parents can order these things for me, and I’ll be prepared for class the same day, without my parents having to waste any time making a second trip to target for just a couple materials that I could get in 30 minutes with drones.” Anika Kaushal, 14, Rising Freshman at Moorestown High School, Moorestown, New Jersey
“I think using drones for amazon delivery will streamline transportation for packages and possibly make amazon prime faster. Using drones also would take thousands of delivery trucks off the roads and reduce Amazon’s impact on the environment. From an environmental standpoint, it makes sense to replace the trucks. Looking at it for jobs, thousands of jobs would be lost which could lead to eventual economic loss. Overall, I support drone delivery, but I’m concerned about the jobs that could be lost.” Kritika Kumar, Rising Sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, 15, Alexandria, Virginia
“Amazon has been known for being unethical with their clothing products, treatment of workers and the way they are able to do things so fast. So all of that makes me think of the production of the drones, so all the equipment they use, factory worker treatment, and their ways that they get rid of their production waste stuff.Will the drones help me? Yes, but they aren’t essential or needed and they might not be good for the environment. If Amazon chooses to follow the same manufacturing procedures they have used in the past, I definitely won’t be using that service if it does become mainstream.” Anonymous, Rising Junior at Rock Ridge High School, 16, Ashburn, Virginia
“Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, using drones to send packages to customers would be highly beneficial. Using drones would limit the amount of people who have to touch the package making the delivery process much safer. Personally, I believe that drones are necessary with the pandemic going on.” Anonymous, Rising Sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, 15, Alexandria, Virginia