On Tuesday, Amazon unveiled some plans for its future drone-based delivery system in a room crowded with NASA experts and officials at the space agency’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.
Gur Kimchi, the company’s VP in charge with drone delivery division, said that there is a lot to be done on a regulatory level to catch up with drone technology that is rapidly maturing.
In the U.S., drones have tight regulations because they pose a real threat to air traffic. But Amazon envisions a future where unmanned aircrafts can fly within a safe, low-altitude band that can be easily monitored by ground controllers.
“It’s completely doable,”
Mr. Kimchi added.
If the Amazon’s efforts are successful, the company along with Google and other retailers may soon revolutionize their business models. Also, drone usage may help utility companies to keep their power-lines functional, while farmers can have an aerial and more detailed view of their crops.
NASA is already working with the government to set in place an orderly air-traffic system for drones, which will be dubbed Unmanned Aerial System Traffic Management. NASA announced that there are 100 potential partners in the project, among which 14 had already signed a deal with the agency including Google, Amazon, and Verizon.
Amazon engineers argue that in order to avoid drone collisions, the aircrafts need to be controlled just like traditional aircrafts are. Plus they need to communicate their position to other drones via a centralized computer that can be accessed by all drone owners.
Mr. Kimchi believes that a company cannot be “safe and efficient” if other companies choose to move their drones around chaotically.
On the other hand, regulating drones may be challenging since many private owners of the small unmanned aircrafts engage in lawless use which sometimes can lead to potentially dangerous collisions with airplanes in the vicinity of airports or injuries to bystanders.
Yet, Amazon is optimistic. It said that people would eventually follow the rules just like they did in car traffic.
Earlier this year, the FAA disclosed a draft of a regulation required in delivery drone use. According to the current form of the rules, drones would be able to only fly around during daytime and cannot exit the filed of view of their ground operator, which represent some severe limitations that cannot allow commercial drone operate at their maximum capacities. Plus, unmanned aircraft will be banned from flying within a 5-mile-range from airports.
Image Source: Drone-Trend