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An Anton Ali Pop-Ed: If I Try to Steal One of Amazon's Drones, Will It Shoot Back?

Hello to all Popculturology readers out there. I hope your Thanksgiving was full of food and alcohol. I also hope you're reading this while on the treadmill. Don't fall like I usually almost do when attempting to read something while running. You probably realized that us Pop-Ed columnists were off last week, and towards the end of our little vacation, online merchant Amazon announced plans for what's being called Amazon Prime Air — a drone delivery service that could potentially deliver anything under five pounds in 30 minutes or less. The idea is certainly ambitious, but even more so when you hear Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos talk about a potential transit network being developed in four to five years. 

The immediate question that came to mind was how these "octocopters" would be able to deliver a wide range or products with different weights and sizes. After all, the drones don't appear to be that big. According to Amazon, almost 90 percnet of the products ordered on Amazon are under five pounds, which is close to the pay-load capacity of the unmanned vehicles. The fact that these drones are pilotless could be one of the biggest hurdles that keeps this idea off the ground for a while. The FAA currently doesn't allow the domestic use of drone vehicles. This, of course, only applies to the United States, which could mean Amazon could soft launch this concept outside of U.S. territory.

The range of a typical octocopter is limited to 10 miles, which will likely centralize the use of one to major hubs or cities for now. So if you or someone you know lives in Montana, they'll likely be waiting a while for this to become a reality. More importantly, you should probably tell them to get Internet first.

Now, if you do live in a big city and near a distribution center, how does a drone make deliveries to apartments? Does it ring the doorbell downstairs or repeatedly bang itself against the door until someone lets it in? It also begs the question as to whether or not a full octocopter could handle a 10-mile trip without losing battery life. I would hate to be walking around outside when one decides to die and fall on my head. Also, depending on the altitude, do we really think people leave these drones flying around in the air alone? It could potentially open up a new age of thieves out there. Amazon vaguely responded to this concern saying, "Safety will be our top priority, and our vehicles will be built with multiple redundancies and designed to commercial aviation standards." I'm not sure what this means. Will these things shoot you back?

Although the concept of drone delivery was surprising, it was interesting to find out that Amazon wasn't the first one doing this. Earlier this Summer, Domino's posted a video of what they call "the DomiCopter."

It may seem like drone deliveries are just around the corner, but I doubt we'll be saying goodbye to UPS, DHL or FedEx anytime soon. The concept is certainly interesting and appears to be somewhat technologically feasible, but supporting the infrastructure for such a system will likely a lot longer than half a decade.
An Anton Ali Pop-Ed: If I Try to Steal One of Amazon's Drones, Will It Shoot Back? Reviewed by Anton Ali on 12/04/2013 Rating: 5

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