Amazon on Seemingly Impossible Delivery Drone Service: “It’s Not as Difficult as You’d Think”

Logistically, Amazon’s planned Prime Air delivery drone service shouldn’t work. Even looking past the issues the service will inevitably have with regulators when it comes to getting off the ground (pun intended), there’s also a number of health and safety risks due to unmanned aerial vehicles hurriedly flying above the heads of pedestrians, the potential that it would negatively impact upon air traffic and the possibility that some may use the drones for target practice. However, Amazon remains confident that one day it will become a reality and, in a new interview,  Amazon’s vice president for global public policy Paul Misener claimed that the challenges the company face aren’t “as difficult as you’d think.”

Speaking to Yahoo, Misener fielded a selection of questions regarding the many problems the company may face in providing a competent drone delivery service. Amazon has said that Prime Air will enable them to deliver products in as little as 30 minutes, providing an even swifter service than its Prime Now delivery option, which provides same-day delivery to a select number of areas. 

While some of Misener’s responses seem a little optimistic, he was nonetheless confident that Prime Air was going to work out and wouldn’t face the plethora of hurdles that many have speculated it will have to overcome. When taken to task over the “technological, geological, geographic, [and] regulatory problems,” the service may have to solve, Misener replied: “Well, it’s actually not as difficult as you might think. The automation technologies already exist. We’re making sure that it works, and we have to get to a point where we can demonstrate that this operates safely.”

He continued:  “The regulatory issues to which you refer are difficult. And once we demonstrate the safety of the system, we believe that the regulations will quickly follow.”

Discussing how Amazon is building its own drones for the service, Misener offered an analogy in order to explain how the devices’ sense-and-avoid technology works, which allows the drones to maneuver their way around obstances.

“These drones are more like horses than cars,” Misener said. “If you have a small tree in your front yard, and you want to bang your car into it for some reason, you can do that. Your spouse might not be happy with you, but you can do it. But try riding a horse into the tree. It won’t do it. The horse will see the tree and go around it. Same way our drones will not run into trees, because they will know not to run into it.” 

Misener also confronted the potential threat of someone “shooting down” a drone with a gun in order to obtain a package it was carrying, saying: “I suppose they could shoot at trucks, too. We want to make the deliveries. And we believe that these Prime Air drones will be as normal as seeing a delivery truck driving down the street someday. So the novelty will wear off.”

I remain skeptical that this delivery service will become a reality without facing a laundry list of problems, but at least Amazon continues to remain hopeful that it’s going to welcome in a future in which no one ever has to leave their house again.