Last night on "60 Minutes," Jeff Bezos shared his plans for Amazon Prime Air unmanned drones with a shocked Charlie Rose ("Oh, man… Oh, my God!"). The Amazon founder-CEO says his company's drones should be able to deliver small packages very, very, very quickly. The media has been eating it up, but I've got some questions:
1. We're gonna have delivery drones buzzing over our heads all day? Really?
2. Just how crashy are these things? And how long before we see a news item like this?
Milwaukee resident Edna Ives, 69, was killed in a freak Amazon Prime Air drone crash on Wednesday, according to local police. The Amazon drone is believed to have spun out of control due to a wind gust, given the prevailing weather conditions at the time Ms. Ives was struck. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
Ironically, the drone was carrying a copy of Mitch Albom's New York Times bestseller "The First Phone Call from Heaven"...
3. Speaking of death, will Amazon become known as the new (and definitive) mom-and-pop-shop-killer, taking the crown from Walmart?
4. Is the Federal Aviation Administration really going to sign off on Amazon having its own private fleet of delivery drones? If so, why not Walmart and Best Buy and Staples, too -- and Domino's, for that matter? (Picture insulated Domino's drones flying fresh-from-the-oven orders of spicy hot wings all over town.) And in dense urban areas -- think massive apartment complexes -- where the hell are these things supposed to land, anyway?
5. Hey kids, criminals and assorted other ne'er-do-wells! Want some free merch? Time to go Amazon Prime Air drone-hunting with your BB gun! ("Fell off a drone" becomes the new "fell off a truck.")
6. Isn't Amazon Prime Air drone delivery sort of already outdated technology? I don't know about you, but when I run out of toilet paper, I just use my 3D printer to make some more.
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UPDATE: Konstantin Kakaes has a post over at Slate titled "Amazon Prime Drone Delivery? It's Hot Air" that addresses the issue of drone safety. You'll want to read the whole thing, but I'll start you off with this three-sentence excerpt:
If thousands of drones are to fly around delivering packages across cities, they must become orders of magnitude more reliable than they are. Otherwise some will crash every day, and Bezos will have to hire an army of people to drive around, pick up the fallen drones, deliver the packages, and refurbish the drones. To satisfy the FAA, drones makers (and would-be operators) must prove that they are able to avoid airplanes, helicopters, and one another and to handle sudden changes in the weather.
Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. Follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.