Driverless cars are out. Drones are in. At least that seems to be the takeaway from all the news this week about Amazon Prime Air drones—and now a report from The Verge that UPS is also working on drone technology.
UPS, the largest parcel shipper in the world, did not confirm the reports beyond simply saying that "the commercial use of drones is an interesting technology,” and that it invests more in research and development than any other company in the delivery business. The Verge got wind of the story via company insiders.
There also seems to be some speculation that the image of the little buzzing drone floating blissfully over suburban neighborhoods and dropping your package off on your doorstep—while more relatable—is a lot further off than we think. The more realistic scenario would be drones that carry parcels from airports to pickup locations.
Either way, we’re all going to have to start watching our heads when we get out of our cars to keep them from getting chopped off by the millions of tiny, spinning rotor blades that will fill the skies soon enough.
In the first nine months of 2013, venture capitalists in the U.S. funneled some $41 million into drone technology. And sales of civilian unmanned aerial vehicles is expected to reach $8.2 billion by the end of the decade.
The FAA hasn’t yet approved domestic drones. It did, however, release a roadmap last month on how it will incorporate drones into private airspace, along with privacy requirements.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed in an interview with Charlie Rose this week that Amazon is testing out delivery drones, petite little remote controlled aircrafts that can deliver packages of up to five pounds as far away as 10 miles round-trip. Bezos calls the drones “octocopters” and says that packages could be delivered in as little as 30 minutes. The strict weight and distance limits seem like they would be pretty constraining factors, but evidently, Amazon could ship some 86% of its orders by drone.
Congress is pushing the FAA to figure out how it will integrate drones into U.S. airspace by 2015, which means the earliest Amazon and other companies could deploy their drones would be some time two or so years from now.
That’s not stopping startups from attempting to capitalize on drone technology. One recent startup, DroneDeploy, graduated from AngelPad earlier this year and has since gone on to raise money from DFJ for its drone-controlling software. Another startup, Airware, raised $13.3 million this year from Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures and First Round Capital to develop customizable, low-cost autopilots for unmanned aerial vehicles.
Image source: animalnewyork.com