Brought to You by Drones
All around the world, the delivery guy is a quadcopter.
Seven reasons the author thinks it can be done—and soon.
DRONES HAVE BEEN in the delivery business since they were invented, delivering data, imagery, and, more recently, ordnance. But two years ago on “60 Minutes,” when Jeff Bezos showed a warehouse full of drones stamped with the Amazon arrow and announced half-hour commercial delivery by as early as 2017, the possibilities for cargo drones seemed to instantly expand.
What didn’t expand was airspace. Under today’s Federal Aviation Administration regulations, operators may apply for a Section 333 Exemption, which allows them “to perform commercial operations in low-risk, controlled environments.” Significantly, the rules bar operators “from allowing any object to be dropped from” a drone.
So how plausible are delivery drones, really? Flying packages in an urban area is fraught with challenges: Go too high and the drone could interfere with an airliner’s airspace; too low and it has to navigate around buildings and trees—not to mention people who would like to snag a drone in addition to its package.
The hazards haven’t stopped dozens of companies from running trials—or staging publicity stunts. You decide which of the following is which.
impetus of the project was Singapore’s labor shortage. The nation’s residents shun food-and-beverage service, notes a 2012 report by the AsiaEurope Foundation. Many of the positions are filled by foreign workers, who make up 40 percent of Singapore’s workforce. But in the past two years, “we have encountered a severe manpower crunch due to the tightening of foreign worker policies,” Edward Chia, Timbré’s managing director, told the BBC in February.
As an incentive to compensate with drones, businesses that automate jobs also receive government subsidies—up to 70 percent of technology costs.
Woon doesn’t think customers will mind the change. “When was the last time you actually talked to the person delivering the food?” he said to CNBC in February. “Most people continue to talk, to carry on the conversation. Most people don’t say ‘Thank you.’ ”