It’s a symphony of robots now.
December 1, 2013 6:03 PM   Subscribe

Amazon Prime Air. Like Amazon Prime, but with robots. 60 Minutes reports.
posted by un petit cadeau (188 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
From @jonlovett on Twitter:
Driverless trucks unload at warehouses sorted by robots to ship Chinese-made goods by unmanned drones to the last middle class family.
posted by Jimbob at 6:09 PM on December 1, 2013 [50 favorites]


Coming 2015, maybe.

Amazon also purchased Kiva Systems in 2012 for $775M. I guess they really like robots.
posted by tracert at 6:10 PM on December 1, 2013


I just got my first-ever Sunday delivery of anything on account of Amazon bought out the post office.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 6:10 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


*checks the date*

huh.
posted by entropicamericana at 6:19 PM on December 1, 2013 [17 favorites]


So what's scarier, drones dropping bombs on you or dropping Daily Deals?
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:23 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is it April 1st already?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:23 PM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am presuming that an unmanned drone is piloted by someone somewhere (according to the FAA guidelines), but how do they avoid running into another drone that is in the air, whether their piloted or autonomous? Is there some sort of radar system?

I'd love to become a pilot for one of these things, but I don't have the money to build my own currently.
posted by gucci mane at 6:24 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Prime subscribers get a free Hellfire missile.
posted by arcticseal at 6:27 PM on December 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


I think the new FAA guidelines allow for autonomous drones.
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:27 PM on December 1, 2013


From the text above the fold I was imagining something like Perri-Air from Spaceballs, perhaps shipped regularly in bulk to customers in smog-laden cities.
posted by XMLicious at 6:28 PM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Work on getting me a noodle boat that flies up to my apartment window and we can talk.
posted by The Whelk at 6:28 PM on December 1, 2013 [41 favorites]


Which William Gibson novel has automated drones being hijacked to dump their cargo and create a distraction? Because I just had a flashback.

And the Kiva thing is actually running in their warehouses now, isn't it? The staff don't run to the shelves anymore...the shelves come to them.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:29 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


So all I need is a sling shot to get a free copy of GTA VI?
posted by Optamystic at 6:29 PM on December 1, 2013 [17 favorites]


Gibson is on twitter tickled pink that one again reality is running too fast for fiction to catch up.
posted by The Whelk at 6:30 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Granted the universe of "<5lbs and needed in 30 minutes" is fairly small right now but I imagine if the small drones do well larger ones will happen. I wonder about landing areas, most rooftops of apartment buildings are off-limits and sidewalks have pedestrian issues. Is this just for suburbs?

It's going to be a weird decade or two.
posted by Skorgu at 6:34 PM on December 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


Maybe in some distant futuristic era a network of pneumatic tubes will connect every destination and messages and merchandise will be rapidly delivered through it.
posted by XMLicious at 6:36 PM on December 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


I wonder about landing areas

This is a big enough deal that I imagine if a domicile doesn't have a convenient landing area, its owners will create one. I imagine that houses didn't have mailboxes before postal services, too.
posted by downing street memo at 6:36 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Driverless trucks unload at warehouses sorted by robots to ship Chinese-made goods by unmanned drones to the last middle class family.

Ah yes, the kind of deep thinking and wisdom Twitter is known for. Thanks for bringing it here.
posted by downing street memo at 6:38 PM on December 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


TwelveTwo: I think the new FAA guidelines allow for autonomous drones.

From the Ars article:
The principles will require pilot and aircrew certification—a process that still needs to be defined by the FAA. And the guidelines also rule out autonomous flight for most drones: "UAS pilots (the pilot-in-command) will always have responsibility for the unmanned aircraft while it is operating," the guidelines in the roadmap state.

However, at the end of the article they mention this:

That's because the FAA projects initial certification of autonomous "sense and avoid" systems required for operating in the national airspace to be finalized somewhere between 2016 and 2020. The issue of "sense and avoid" scuttled Germany's Euro Hawk drone efforts, because that drone didn't have such a system—meaning that the European Union's air safety agency wouldn't approve it for flight.

The military is developing ground-based sense-and-avoid (GBSAA) systems to allow drones to operate within limited training areas, but the FAA doesn't expect to approve a GBSSA test site until the second half of 2015—and other organizations won’t get a shot at using ground-based systems until 2018.

posted by gucci mane at 6:38 PM on December 1, 2013


I am presuming that an unmanned drone is piloted by someone somewhere

Bezos definitely said in the interview that the drones weren't being steered/remote controlled by anyone. I think he said under FAA guidelines they couldn't start until 2015 or 2016 at the earliest. And that the biggest holdup would be ironing out the kinks so the drones didn't land on anyone's head on the street or in their yards, etc.
posted by onlyconnect at 6:39 PM on December 1, 2013


THIS IS GOING TO REVOLUTIONIZE THE CD BUSINESS.




                                                                                         What?
posted by entropicamericana at 6:39 PM on December 1, 2013 [29 favorites]


Progressives really need to wake up to the sociopolitical implications of automation. When one of the world's most important, fastest-growing companies is telegraphing the future to you, maybe it's time to stop joking around.
posted by crayz at 6:40 PM on December 1, 2013 [34 favorites]


cf Taco copter
posted by euphorb at 6:40 PM on December 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Right, it seems like 99% of the obstacles remaining at this point are around standardization and regulation, not technology.
posted by downing street memo at 6:40 PM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


And of course these little multicoptors can be pretty good at coordinating so you could have a swarm of them co-lift a larger payload like the Jaegers in Pacific Rim that made my physics spidey sense shit bricks.

Or: Amazon gets into the just-in-time tequila and condoms delivery service.
posted by Skorgu at 6:41 PM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I think the coolest thing about this announcement actually is that everyone already basically understands what it is. The technology to get a robot to deliver a package somewhere is like totally mundane. The unbelievable part is that someone other than the CIA can do it at scale.
posted by tracert at 6:42 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jeff Bezos does't care about books or any of the other goods he sells, he cares about supply chain optimization from end-to-end. And this is a huge optimization - it eliminates UPS and the USPS as bottlenecks, it scales like crazy hell, and it uses robots instead of people. It also allows Amazon to break into new markets - e.g. the "I need a dozen eggs right now" market or the "we're out of batteries??!" market.
posted by pmb at 6:48 PM on December 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


In 2010, the Supreme Court granted personhood to corporations. How long until they do the same for drones? Shooting a drone will be seen as assault on the person of a corporation. If you're not scared shitless right now, you're not paying attention.
posted by Optamystic at 6:50 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's like rich people in Silicon Valley have nothing to do with their time but dream up new ways to kill the working class.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:50 PM on December 1, 2013 [23 favorites]


Pope: They call it "disrupting".
posted by softlord at 6:52 PM on December 1, 2013 [15 favorites]


I wonder how "People need money in order to buy our shit and need jobs to get money" factors in to these marvelous automation plans and race to the bottom in wages.
posted by bleep at 6:54 PM on December 1, 2013 [18 favorites]


"I need a dozen eggs right now" market or the "we're out of batteries??!" market.

Don't forget the "I'm too drunk/high/tired to go out" market, and the "Damn, it's too cold/wet/hot to go out" market.
posted by FJT at 6:55 PM on December 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Begun the drone wars have.
posted by guiseroom at 6:57 PM on December 1, 2013 [18 favorites]


I have such mixed feelings about Amazon. On one hand, I see that the company is moving toward becoming a major world power, sort of in the manner of the various clans/tribes/phyles in Snow Crash and The Diamond Age—maybe in the future, my Amazon Prime subscription will, in addition to bringing me items almost instantly on any day of the week, also grant me access to walled compounds in every city (perhaps with their own news service via The Washington Post?). At very least, it'll continue to give me a way to buy things that local stores currently don't (and maybe never will) carry. And perhaps the jobs these innovations will displace (in delivery, retail, trucking) were inevitably going to go by the wayside anyway.

On the other hand, Jeff Bezos just seems...ruthless and, ironically, kind of short-sighted. He's funding things like the Long Now Foundation's 10,000-year clock, but his time frame for seeing these specific changes in the retail world (drone delivery, etc.) take place is "hopefully before I die." Beyond that time horizon, it's not his problem, and he doesn't do a very good job of pretending to care about anyone who gets "disrupted." I'm not sure how working-class people are going to obtain all of this wonderment and "customer service," though, if they can't afford to be customers. (And will they be able to afford houses with nice patios for drones to land on?) I'm not sure I want to have to order everything from robots in the sky; my preference would be to go somewhere local to get stuff, but increasingly, local stores don't seem to carry what I want. It's sort of a chicken-and-egg problem.

Bezos seems to be approaching all of these things with a larger picture in mind, and assuming certain things that the average person wouldn't (or couldn't possibly know). I want to know what he's projecting as a done deal—maybe local retail and local delivery (at least involving human salespeople and deliverypeople) are already dead on their feet, and we just don't know it.

As noted, I'm an Amazon Prime subscriber, and I'd like it if there were a way to opt out of Sunday delivery, drone delivery, etc. I'd like my wonderment—but only to the point that it doesn't cost my friends who are book-sellers, deliverypeople, retailers, etc. their entire livelihood and way of life. Two-day delivery is fast enough for me.

Yet maybe even stopping there wouldn't stop us from bleeding for Amazon. (Yep, that's a real Amazon receipt I got two years ago, pretty viscerally illustrating my qualms about the company's business model.)
posted by limeonaire at 6:59 PM on December 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


The Terminator remake will need a few more tweaks now. Maybe they'll merge with Minority Report.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:59 PM on December 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's going to be a weird decade or two.

But here's the thing -- it's not! If you told somebody in 1993 about the changes in tech that would separate 2013 from 1993, they would have said, wow, it's going to be a weird decade or two. But no! Everything is kind of the same! It's kind of astonishing, how good we are at not changing the way we live. And we will absorb the flying robot deliveries too.
posted by escabeche at 7:03 PM on December 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


The flying robots are not here to help you. If Amazon has this shit, so does the DEA/FBI/DHS. That's probably not a good thing.
posted by Optamystic at 7:05 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


.....and yet I still have to pay a fortune in shipping if I want a book from the US.
posted by Canageek at 7:12 PM on December 1, 2013


Those are some mighty fancy clay pigeons you've got there, Mr. Bezos.
posted by mondo dentro at 7:15 PM on December 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


Countermeasure for those of you wishing to keep your neighborhood nice and QUIET!
posted by cenoxo at 7:16 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Beyond that time horizon, it's not his problem, and he doesn't do a very good job of pretending to care about anyone who gets "disrupted."

I genuinely do not understand why, exactly, this is his (or any person working with automation's) problem.

Look: from our inception until around 1920, the United States was a majority-rural nation. In those times, the only jobs in rural areas were intimately connected to agriculture - either you were growing crops yourself, marketing the crops, or providing tertiary services to the growers and marketers (finance, transportation, etc). Most people subsisted by the agricultural economy.

Today - a mere 93 years later - 2% of our labor force is employed in the agricultural sector. 2%! What happened? Better crops improved average yields without requiring more man-hours, better farming technologies made it possible for an individual to do the work of dozens, faster transportation networks (not to mention refrigeration) made it possible to expand the distribution footprint of a single farm. We didn't need so many farmers anymore, and over time, society (speaking very broadly) found other things for the former farmers to do. By the 1930's we developed industries that would have mystified the people 30 years previous.

Yes, this transition caused a lot of pain - economic and otherwise. But no one in this thread would ever agree that we were better off with 70 or 80% of our labor force in agriculture. And there's going to come a time - maybe 10 years from now, maybe 100 - that we or our ancestors realize how completely ridiculous it is that people used to spend all their time in hot, sweaty factories, or doing menial labor like driving a cab.

Just to fully inoculate myself against strawmen - I do not believe that this story about what has happened before guarantees that something like it will happen as automation kills off a lot of "schlepping" jobs. It's very possible that we simply do not replace those jobs in the medium or long terms (although I'd bet against it). But there are actually pretty simple political solutions to that problem, and given the immense benefits of automation in energy use and plain old human labor-saving, it's a trade I'm absolutely willing to make.
posted by downing street memo at 7:17 PM on December 1, 2013 [19 favorites]




I'm imaging a lobster trap, in the sky.
posted by furtive at 7:22 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


@felixgilman 1h

would it not be more efficient if the drones simply brought everyone to the warehouse and didn't let them go

posted by The Whelk at 7:23 PM on December 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


But there are actually pretty simple political solutions to that problem

Sure, things change. And I'd love self-driving cars and self-delivering products and socialized medicine, too, that beautiful Star Trek future where automation frees us up to explore the galaxy and become self-actualized. I want that. But in the meantime, in the coming transition period...what are these simple political solutions of which you speak? Despite all the automation we already have, people in the U.S. work more than ever; how do you change that?
posted by limeonaire at 7:26 PM on December 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yes. Thinking about the delivery of all the the things I >don't< want.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 7:26 PM on December 1, 2013


Also, shooting at these things with pellet guns would be a hell of a lot of fun.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 7:28 PM on December 1, 2013


What an aesthetic nightmare. Who wants to have these buzzing around like a swarm of hornets? And that thing would scare the hell out of my dog. Seriously. Can you imagine, out for a walk in the beautiful sunshine, birds chirping, leaves rustling, happy dog smiling up at you, then here comes this fucking thing buzzing overhead?
posted by HotToddy at 7:28 PM on December 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


How many VMTs will ubiquitous, near-instant delivery eliminate, entropicamericana? I sold my car because of Amazon Prime, and I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one.

what are these simple political solutions of which you speak?

A basic income sounds far-fetched, but I can tell you that it's garnering significant curiosity in Washington.
posted by downing street memo at 7:29 PM on December 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Political solutions are never simple. No one's going to be removing the requirement of working for money or needing money to buy things. Or working for health insurance (despite Obamacare.) They're just going to blindly stumble into a situation where it's way too hard for most people to get enough money. This is already the case in much of the world.
posted by bleep at 7:30 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, sort of as depicted in Vernor Vinge's Rainbow's End, except with howitzers as well as flying drones.

Also, driverless cars.
posted by daq at 7:31 PM on December 1, 2013


@rcalo: BREAKING: Etsy to begin delivering packages by barn owl.
posted by The Whelk at 7:41 PM on December 1, 2013 [31 favorites]


Driverless trucks unload at warehouses sorted by robots to ship Chinese-made goods by unmanned drones to the last middle class family.

Pretty sure the Chinese are humans.
posted by modernserf at 7:42 PM on December 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


well, I've been on a Fringe binge lately. from what i can tell, we're all gonna need to pay attention to amber triangles soon and get out our oxygen canisters.

it's getting to harder to like my favorite scifi when it's becoming reality because my favorite scifi does not really end well for the most part. neuromancer, snow crash, diamond age, blade runner.

they are not exactly happy stories. the technology is fascinating, but society is same as it ever was.

you're just able to grow a new body in a vat. but not if you're sick and poor.

guess you can't get one delivered via drone either.
posted by sio42 at 7:45 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ah yes, the kind of deep thinking and wisdom Twitter is known for. Thanks for bringing it here.

What sort of device allows you to see all 400 million daily Tweets? Can you buy it on Amazon?
posted by wensink at 7:46 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


we're all gonna need to pay attention to amber triangles soon and get out our oxygen canisters.

If things get bad I'm moving to the alternate universe.
posted by The Whelk at 7:49 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


sort of as depicted in Vernor Vinge's Rainbow's End

Ugh, the second most unpleasant future I have ever seen depicted in fiction, after Accelerando.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:49 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


If things get bad I'm moving to the alternate universe.

I'm moving there because they have cooler clothes.
posted by mondo dentro at 7:52 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is going to look so hokey when they invent the replicator in a couple years.
posted by Beardman at 7:52 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Five years? That's the Friedman unit of technology. I'm willing to bet this never happens in any significant capacity.
posted by aspo at 7:59 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]



I'm moving there because they have cooler clothes.

I'm hoping for snazzy ear-cuffs.
posted by The Whelk at 8:00 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


But here's the thing -- it's not! If you told somebody in 1993 about the changes in tech that would separate 2013 from 1993, they would have said, wow, it's going to be a weird decade or two. But no! Everything is kind of the same! It's kind of astonishing, how good we are at not changing the way we live. And we will absorb the flying robot deliveries too.

It's because the changes come piecemeal such that we don't notice the subtle changes over a discrete amount of time. Any one change is compared relative to the recent past, and unless it's something pretty crazy at one time, we don't feel as if the future "has arrived" as much as it's just a little bit different from our most recent memories. We have to be intentional about appreciating history I think to get wowed by the present any more. For me, though, these potential drone deliveries are big enough to be a bit jarring by themselves.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:04 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Coming 2015, maybe

Nice misdirect Amazon, but I still want my hoverboard.
posted by dry white toast at 8:10 PM on December 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Open skies make great natural air conditioning for robots.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:15 PM on December 1, 2013


Granted the universe of "<5lbs and needed in 30 minutes" is fairly small right now

This would be great for cords, cables, chargers, adapters, etc. Right now Radio Shack and Best Buy only exist for me as a place to go when I absolutely have to have a small electronics part immediately and can't wait for an online store to ship it across the country. I bet whatever Amazon charged to send me a USB cable by RC Helicopter would still be cheaper than the exorbitant markup on these sort of items at pretty much any retailer.
posted by Vulgar Euphemism at 8:21 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm really curious what sort of security they have in mind for these things. Tiny camera bots to take your picture if you intercept and rob one?
posted by straight at 8:32 PM on December 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


The drones are small now but no reason they can't be as big as a small helicopter (electric) running heavy packages around town.

*HX-1 unmanned electric helicopter
*E-volo 18-rotor electric Volocopter (video)
posted by stbalbach at 8:37 PM on December 1, 2013


I imagine they'll be equipped with various weapons for if it gets grabbed or shot at.
posted by bleep at 8:38 PM on December 1, 2013


Part of me thinks that this is in part Bezo's revenge on the State of California for requiring him to charge sales tax. At times since then, he's seemed to make an intentional point of saying screw you, I'll still make it better than actually going to the store. He was talking about same day delivery here for awhile after that, as Amazon has a lot of local distribution centers here, but this is an impressive step up.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:39 PM on December 1, 2013


The future is an unmanned drone delivering a package of subscribe-and-save coffee filters onto a human face, forever.
posted by Behemoth at 8:40 PM on December 1, 2013 [17 favorites]


This is dumb. Don't get me wrong -- I love that quick delivery with my Amazon Prime. But aside from the obvious logistical issues (How to avoid running into each other? How to avoid running into other flying objects, like birds? How to fly safely with a package through bad weather? Do any of the solutions to those problems involve cameras that will create privacy concerns?) and the obvious environmental, aesthetic, and quality-of-life issues one imagines would be associated with skies full of minidrones, people would be taking these things out with shotguns and robbing the wreckage.
posted by BlueJae at 8:41 PM on December 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


They are wildly optimistic both on making these things safe and convincing FAA they are safe to operate. Particularly in any sort of urban environment. Also powering the drone is problematic.
posted by Nelson at 8:41 PM on December 1, 2013


I wonder how "People need money in order to buy our shit and need jobs to get money" factors in to these marvelous automation plans and race to the bottom in wages.

If only 20% of the U.S. population can afford their stuff, then that still gives a market of 70 million people. They just need to remove the excess population. Somehow.
posted by happyroach at 8:43 PM on December 1, 2013


No reason to remove-- they can just start selling the excess population.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:47 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you told somebody in 1993 about the changes in tech that would separate 2013 from 1993, they would have said, wow, it's going to be a weird decade or two. But no! Everything is kind of the same!

Everyone has a telephone that runs its own operating system constantly on their person that was manufactured in China, the penultimate capitalist economy in the world, which possibly is being used to spy on them for sextortion by someone a thousand miles away, the one Germany is now the dominant nation in a Europe that has a single currency and a unified parliament, the U.S. government has an army of flying killer robots and a public record of torturing people in secret prisons and openly assassinating U.S. citizens and our astronauts hitch a ride from the Russians because they can't get into space on their own, and you can go to one store and pick up socks, bananas, and an 80 inch flat panel television and check yourself out and pay without a cashier—that seems "kind of the same" even when you put yourself in a barely-post-eighties basically-still-Cold-War mindset?

I mean a Pepsi doesn't cost fifty bucks yet but I think 1993 me would find today at least a little bit weird.
posted by XMLicious at 8:47 PM on December 1, 2013 [45 favorites]


In fact I might need to get to work on a DIY HERF gun with precision targeting. For . . . reasons.
posted by BlueJae at 8:48 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Congrats to Suzanne Collins; you know The Hunger Games has truly hit the big time when people are taking the fictional dystopia you created as a cultural instruction manual.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:48 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel like new editions of Snow Crash should come with a SATIRE, NOT INSTRUCTION MANUAL sticker.
posted by The Whelk at 9:00 PM on December 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


[taps PURCHASE]

[beat]

Dwight: "...man, the site said to allow four to six seconds for delivery."

Cubert: *snort* "More like seven!"

[knocked out by falling Amazon Prime package]
posted by Rhaomi at 9:13 PM on December 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is dumb.

You have acknowledged that these issues are obvious. I agree. But Amazon is one of the smartest companies in the world. They run systems that power half the internet. They are at the absolute forefront of distribution and supply chain management. And they employ literally tens of thousands of engineers.

Does it not stand to reason that, at some point, somebody thought about the same simple and obvious issues you just did and worked though them? And at the end of the day it still made business sense? Or is Jeff Bezos going to read this thread and be like GUYS. GUYS DID YOU SEE THIS COMMENT ON METAFILTER. WE GOTTA SHUT THIS THING DOWN.

Come on. Think about it a little before saying "this is dumb". A lot of people thought the notion of manned flight was dumb. Then later a lot of people thought it was dumb to try to make an electric car. Or a car that could drive itself. Or to run a website that sells books. "This is dumb" has killed a lot of good ideas for no reason. "This is dumb" is what people say when they are afraid, or dull, or usually both.

I think something is dumb in this thread, but it's not the topic. "This is dumb". Yeesh.
posted by tracert at 9:25 PM on December 1, 2013 [33 favorites]


people would be taking these things out with shotguns and robbing the wreckage.

This would be probably only a problem in large rural areas. Very few people have large, private pieces of land to down a flying object and make sure it lands somewhere that they can recover without being seen. And then, how can you tell if the thing is carrying a smartphone or candy bars? Also, it's still better that a drone is shot at, as opposed to the FedEx guy.

And the tech for self operated vehicles is already pretty advanced. I think there's little chance of a mid-air collision. Weather is a concern, but I think in the event of a severe storm or blizzard Amazon would probably ground the fleet anyway.
posted by FJT at 9:28 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is much better than that dumb idea that they had to deliver packages using vans. To pull that off, you have to find drivers who won't just conveniently "lose" a package, or take out the most valuable things and reseal it. You always have the chance of an auto accident. Plus, if people aren't home, those packages are just going to get left on the front porch where they will be looted in no time at all. A dumbass system like that could never work, but this drone thing has a real shot.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:36 PM on December 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


Honestly, this whole 'instruction manual' meme is tiresome. It implicitly puts all the responsibility on someone else-- as if all this would have been averted if they, those numbskulls, hadn't mistook satire for a good idea. When in reality, all of this could have been averted if we hadn't mistook a warning for satire.

Its just fiction, that is how the defense goes. The fact that such futures could be believably imagined at all that should have been warning enough that we were down the wrong path. What is believable is what is conceivably possible. No one worries a wild cat will strike in an Ikea, but down a dark forest trail, well the idea once raised will stick. Certain circumstances can be imagined, and the fact that they can be imagined tells you that they aren't groundless. You don't imagine a unicorn outside the door because you saw a rainbow, but a sudden silence from an infant, back from the doctors, may raise every hair on your spine. In our day to day, we act on these imagined possibilities, all these possible futures. We'll try to prevent the worst from happening, and assure the best, to the best of our ability. That sulfurous smell may be nothing, but if you're in the house you check the stove. But yet, this behavior vanishes in the realm of politics; everything turns upside down. The pipes are fine, it ain't gas, don't bother the baby, leaves rustle all the time.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:38 PM on December 1, 2013


And once everybody gets used to these things flying around everywhere and landing at random homes, identically-painted models can be used to deliver drugs with none the wiser.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:41 PM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


This milk is pizzled.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:41 PM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


When this becomes available, I'm totally gonna spend one whole day outside and just order random stuff on Amazon and wait for it to arrive. Every time a drone lands, I'll be like:

"Deploying Crest toothpaste."
"Deploying Chex Mix."
"Deploying 4-pack of Microfiber cloths."
"Deploying LEGO set."
"Deploying Tuscan Whole Milk."
posted by FJT at 9:52 PM on December 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


Packages do regularly get damaged and / or stolen during regular delivery using airplanes and vans, Pater Aletheias. I used to work for a retail website that did international shipping-- a much smaller business than Amazon-- and I personally took thousands of customer complaints about damaged or missing packages while I had that job. We just had to expect that a certain percentage of packages would be stolen or destroyed in transit and work that loss into our business model. But on the whole, humans delivering packages to other humans is a pretty good way to handle things. I'm not saying that robots won't eventually be intelligent enough to do that job well. But drones at our current level of technology aren't exactly equipped to show up to your house and gently leave a package behind that potted plant on your front porch, just out of sight from the street but also out of that puddle of water. And I don't think they're going to be ready to do things like that well before 2015.
posted by BlueJae at 9:55 PM on December 1, 2013


In 2010, the Supreme Court granted personhood to corporations. How long until they do the same for drones? Shooting a drone will be seen as assault on the person of a corporation. If you're not scared shitless right now, you're not paying attention.

Ok, first thing: the Supreme Court said that corporations have legal personhood rights for the purposes of exercising free speech, not that they have all the rights of natural persons or that they have personhood for all purposes. Which I happen to think is a fucked up decision, but at least let's get our case readings right if we're going imply that people aren't paying attention.

In any event, if this whole idea ever comes to fruition, shooting a drone will be seen as damage to private property, just the same way that shooting a delivery truck would be now.

I mean get a the "zomgDRONES sci fi dystopia!" reaction at first, but as proposed this is nothing more than an alternate delivery mechanism for small goods. Let's keep our heads. This does not require anyone to be scared shitless, particularly for those of us that ARE actually paying attention.
posted by modernnomad at 10:06 PM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


...and you can go to one store and pick up socks, bananas, and an 80 inch flat panel television and check yourself out and pay without a cashier—that seems "kind of the same" even when you put yourself in a barely-post-eighties basically-still-Cold-War mindset?

Whatever man, I grew up in Michigan with Meijer, so yes, I have been able to buy socks, bananas, and a then-current TV all at once in the same store (open 24 hours no less!) since the early 90s. I do think it was about '98 before they got a self-checkout, to be fair.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 10:09 PM on December 1, 2013


Let's keep our heads.

Step 1. Duck when you hear a whirring sound.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:10 PM on December 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's because the changes come piecemeal such that we don't notice the subtle changes over a discrete amount of time. Any one change is compared relative to the recent past, and unless it's something pretty crazy at one time, we don't feel as if the future "has arrived" as much as it's just a little bit different from our most recent memories.

It doesn't happen often, but I can think of a few such moments even in my lifetime. The iPhone keynote. Diving across the world to my house in Google Earth. Browsing Wikipedia for the first time.

All these were slick cultivations of existing technologies -- Apple perfecting mobile phone technology, Google buying out Keyhole and releasing it free, Wikimedia harnessing the collective knowledge of thousands of individual editors. Maybe this will be that moment for UAVs. Going from an expensive hobby or faraway military op to airdropping a new umbrella before the afternoon rainstorm.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:13 PM on December 1, 2013


You do realize, of course, that these people will soon rule the world? ;)
posted by TDavis at 10:18 PM on December 1, 2013


Just how ubiquitous are these supposed to become? I can't think of a non-lifesaving application that would justify the visual pollution in the sky.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:24 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Remember that other time that Jeff Bezos embraced a revolutionary, high-tech new form of transportation that was going to change the world?
posted by BlueJae at 10:30 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Difference being that whereas the military and public had to be persuaded to buy any Segways, this is the other way around - drones have been in use for almost two decades and you can already buy them as Christmas presents for yourself your kids. To be delivered by Amazon PrimeAir down the chimney, shortly, and in another few years it will be able to take a bite out of the cookie and leave reindeer hoof prints on the roof. The era of Robot Santa and Kwanzaabot is nigh.
posted by XMLicious at 10:49 PM on December 1, 2013


Never try anything new, kids. You might be wrong.
posted by tracert at 11:16 PM on December 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


And once everybody gets used to these things flying around everywhere and landing at random homes, identically-painted models can be used to deliver drugs with none the wiser.

The government, of course, would also be able to take advantage of this. You think it's your books from Amazon until the payload turns out to be a taser or gun or camera. "That's funny... all the neighbors are getting Amazon deliveries this morning... *blam blam blam*"
posted by pracowity at 11:21 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why would anyone need to shoot them down? A reasonably sized apartment building with lots of occupants who are Amazon Prime customers, a large net and a friend on the ground to help you recover the spoils and it is really just a lazy day fishing. And you wouldn't need anything valuable as cargo, the net could be made of some sort of heavy rubber to prevent the drone from cracking up upon impact and I am sure there would be a pretty brisk secondary market for the things once the security/videocam/lowjack was popped out.
posted by roquetuen at 11:37 PM on December 1, 2013


So the emerging consensus seems to be that - practicality aside - this is worse for society than a human driving a fuel-burning truck.
posted by vanar sena at 11:38 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just how ubiquitous are these supposed to become? I can't think of a non-lifesaving application that would justify the visual pollution in the sky.

Think altitude. Once these things are more than a couple of hundred feet up they're just about invisible and probably not that loud. That's one of the reasons that they work so well for military surveillance.

On another note, as long as they stay under 500' away from surface airspace (close to airports) they shouldn't encounter (legally flown) manned aircraft.
posted by Long Way To Go at 11:39 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah. Seems a bit like the camel's nose in the tent for all kinds of gawd awful uses for domestic drones, from animated sky banners to police surveillance and seeing as how many domestic police forces are clammoring to buy these things already and as how we're already drowning ourselves in convenient consumption and as how drones will always be inherently less safe for people on the ground due to failure rates. I mean wasn't some dude recently decapitated by his own RC helicopter? Ugh. I can wait 24 hours for my freaking deliveries. I swear. Just put an Amazon Locker in my neighborhood and we're golden.
posted by Skwirl at 11:42 PM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Think altitude. Once these things are more than a couple of hundred feet up they're just about invisible and probably not that loud.

OK. That solves probably 90% of the security problem right there. If they cruise invisibly at 300 feet and only descend when they're directly over the target, they're going to be pretty hard to intercept.
posted by straight at 11:46 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


vanar sena: RC helicopters run on energy. Someone smarter than me should crunch the numbers but it's pretty hard to believe that the huge fleet of flying drones that have to be constantly battling 9.8 m/s/s are going to be better at scale for global warming and pollution than trucks.

Altitude-smaltitude. They gotta land, don't they? Hard to believe that they will trust my neighbor's new hair dryer to a parachute and the prevailing winds and the snatchers of the pirate drones just to spare me a noise complaint.
posted by Skwirl at 11:55 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can these really be louder than my dick neighbor's loud-ass motorcycle, the unending construction across the street, leaf blowers, car alarms or the inexplicable fucking urban rooster that thankfully has recently either shut the hell up or died? And that's now that I live in a "good neighborhood", so less random gunshots and/or fireworks, yelling drunk people, sirens, police copters, etc. I really can't imagine a quadcopter being worse than that shit.
posted by NoraReed at 12:43 AM on December 2, 2013


Why would anyone need to shoot them down?

Ambushing them might be physically easy, but Amazon (and then the cops) would know exactly where it happened, they would have video of it happening, and they (Amazon and cops) would be able to send more drones to follow you. If Amazon hardened the security on these helicopters, you wouldn't be able to quickly disable an emergency signal. And because it involves aviation, the law would probably make it out to be some sort of scary air hijacking that brings in the FBI and all sorts of crazy potential punishments. If they catch you, you spend 20 years in prison. If they don't, all you get is a broken RC helicopter and a package of Pampers.

Anyway, another use I see for this system is messenger deliveries. It could put most of the remaining bicycle messengers out of business. Put a secure landing pad on the roof or a terrace of every office building in a city, plus one or more drone ports on the tops of other buildings, and it would all happen high above all traffic and hijacker worries. One drone could swing by multiple nearby buildings in a few minutes.

And when Amazon buys the USPS and starts delivering mail by automated trucks and drones 24/7, US mail carriers will also be looking for work. Everyone will have to have an identical mailbox (standalone for rural routes, group boxes for urban settings) that the truck will be able to service all by itself. No more mail boxes inside buildings or on building walls.

So... book stores, bicycle messengers, mail carriers, etc. Amazon is very busy putting people out of work. (Unless you work in one of their centers.)
posted by pracowity at 12:50 AM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is ridiculous. Silly PR stunt gets Amazon, in the docks in Europe over working practices, some favourable coverage.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:56 AM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think this would be great. Really, truthfully, absolutely great. Given that self-flying drones are likely to drop in price as years go on, even small businesses could use this.

I guess for delivery you would have to attach some kind of net outside a window for it to drop a package in, kinda like the old mail train system. Maybe we could even attach parcels to hooks in the same way and order up a drone to come and deliver it for us, like a flying courier. That would be awesome.
posted by Thing at 2:46 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tomorrow can we talk about our jet packs and flying cars?
posted by HuronBob at 3:31 AM on December 2, 2013




I'm thrilled if Amazon gets airborne robot delivery working. We benefit anytime human labor gets replaced by machine labor.

Yes, these drones surely cost too much in energy, probably fossil fuel energy even, but their existence might accelerate delivery truck automation, and later laws that take humans out of the drive seat.

Also, there are definitely medical deliveries that warrant such an energy expenditure : pathology samples, anti-venom, robot medics, etc. All those medical courier companies sounds ripe for "disruption".

All that said, there is a reason the concorde shut down, namely time preference has limits. I plan most online purchases a couple months in advance so that I may order directly form China via ebay, dx, etc., cutting out all western organizations beyond the post office, my bank, and maybe ebay. Amazon faces a little disruption themselves once more people realize this works.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:12 AM on December 2, 2013


Amazon will not buy the USPS. They will buy WALMART for the distribution centers.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 4:12 AM on December 2, 2013


People who brought "flying robot smokescreen PR scheme" also brought "totally forgot about treating staff like shit" and "completely failed to remember massive tax avoidance".
posted by The River Ivel at 4:23 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


also brought "totally forgot about treating staff like shit"

I'm surprised they have so many people to mistreat. They can develop door-to-door RC helicopter delivery service but they can't automatically put five books in a cardboard box and automatically put that box on a truck? But I guess they're working on that.
posted by pracowity at 4:43 AM on December 2, 2013


PR stunt, indeed — I don't care how you spell my name, just spell it correctly: B-E-Z-O-S (not 'Buzz Off').

Consider briefly: wind, rain, fog, hail, snow, recipient not home, wrong address, wrong recipient, no digits to push doorbell, flowers conveniently shredded at Mom's front door, in-flight maydays, falling objects (and ensuing lawsuits), massive increase in UFO reports, repairs, maintenance, cost per item delivery vs. trucks, etc., etc., etc.

Chimps on tricycles would be cuter and more efficient.
posted by cenoxo at 4:47 AM on December 2, 2013


I think it's far more likely Amazon deploys robotic delivery trucks before these.
posted by odinsdream at 5:09 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Serious question...How well do drones handle bad weather? Like torrential rain or high winds? Or both? Thunderstorms and lightning? Would drone delivery be suspended in the case of bad weather?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:31 AM on December 2, 2013


I doubt these things will have much range, a few miles at most. Now if they made them nuclear powered, they'd get much larger distances. But if they're powered this way, they'd need some kind of weaponization in order to protect themselves....and some really good AI, possibly aided with a centralized super computer over a proprietary wireless network. They should call it AirNet.
posted by samsara at 5:34 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Was that reporting by 42 Minutes or was it like one of those advertorial insert sections in your newspaper that pretend to be news? It is so hard to tell with 42 Minutes.
posted by srboisvert at 6:10 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


After watching the 60 Minutes piece, I'd be willing to bet that Amazon replaces its "Pack Ambassadors" with drones before it takes on the delivery trucks.
posted by BobbyVan at 6:12 AM on December 2, 2013


The fact that the morning news on multiple channels reported on last night's interview with the intro "And just in time for Cyber Monday, [insert lots of talk about Amazon that they didn't even have to pay for]" without any hint of sarcasm tells us quite a bit about this project, its timing, and media in general.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:23 AM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Amazon to deliver by drone? Don't believe the hype
Just observing the FAA will take ages
posted by jeffburdges at 6:24 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find the wailing and rending of garments in this thread a bit confusing. Amazon's robots are not the harbingers of the inequalipocalypse, that's happening quite well all on its own.
posted by lucidium at 7:51 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Can these really be louder than my dick neighbor's loud-ass motorcycle, the unending construction across the street, leaf blowers, car alarms or the inexplicable fucking urban rooster that thankfully has recently either shut the hell up or died? And that's now that I live in a "good neighborhood", so less random gunshots and/or fireworks, yelling drunk people, sirens, police copters, etc. I really can't imagine a quadcopter being worse than that shit.

I sympathize, NoraReed, that sounds just like my neighborhood. The phrase "visual pollution" is kind of clumsy, but I wasn't talking about the noise.

> Think altitude. Once these things are more than a couple of hundred feet up they're just about invisible and probably not that loud.

I live in a huge city and because of light pollution I have to travel one hundred miles? maybe two hundred miles? just to see stars at night. Regardless of their flying altitude these drones have to land and take off again so in great enough numbers these Amazon-branded drones would effectively be polluting the sky.

I'm the first person to make self-deprecating "Old man yells at cloud" jokes, but there are always tradeoffs to consider. The light pollution sucks, but not having electricity would suck more. The reason I asked how ubiquitous this could become is because I don't think having non-lifesaving stuff delivered in under 30 minutes is worth having yet another visual distraction in our lives.

I can wait 24 hours for my freaking deliveries. I swear. Just put an Amazon Locker in my neighborhood and we're golden.

Yup.

There's a line at the end of Fargo that I often think of: "And for what?" That's what I asked myself when I heard about these drones. "And for what?" It currently looks like it's just for some free PR for Amazon so I'm not letting myself get too aggro over this. Yet.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:00 AM on December 2, 2013


I find the wailing and rending of garments in this thread a bit confusing. Amazon's robots are not the harbingers of the inequalipocalypse, that's happening quite well all on its own.

If nothing else, the "wailing and rending" will inspire some funny Portlandia sketches. "The Slow Mail Movement" anyone?
posted by BobbyVan at 9:32 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Consider briefly: wind, rain, fog, hail, snow, recipient not home, wrong address, wrong recipient, no digits to push doorbell, flowers conveniently shredded at Mom's front door, in-flight maydays, falling objects (and ensuing lawsuits), massive increase in UFO reports, repairs, maintenance, cost per item delivery vs. trucks, etc., etc., etc.

To reiterate tracert above, you (and other naysayers akin to you) are not smarter than the collective brainpower of thousands of professional engineers. All those problems you list, and any more you can think of, they have already thought of.
posted by rifflesby at 9:44 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


but have they thought of dragons because that was my very first thought.
posted by elizardbits at 9:52 AM on December 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Indeed, engineers are infallible.

*genuflects before our Randian overlords*
posted by entropicamericana at 9:55 AM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Robots can avoid taxes and commit fraud way more efficiently than humans.
posted by The Whelk at 9:58 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I must disagree with those who think people will shoot these down with shotguns or slingshots and loot the contents. Nets or webbing to tangle the rotors is the way to go; much less risk of damaging the contents.
posted by echo target at 10:03 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


There will be theft and sabotage. And then prosecutions. And either the cost increase is absorbed into the benefits of not paying drivers or the program won't work. But you can't know either way until you at least fly a few.

I suspect it'll be a laugh the first few times and then it'll be about as problematic as running over mailboxes or shooting at freight trains.
posted by Skorgu at 10:15 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nets or webbing to tangle the rotors is the way to go; much less risk of damaging the contents.

The best part of this plan is that you can order the net gun on amazon.
posted by elizardbits at 10:18 AM on December 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


it's the CIRCLE OOOOOF LIIIIIFE
posted by The Whelk at 10:27 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The future is going to be a depressing place for most of us.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:46 AM on December 2, 2013


The best part of this plan is that you can order the net gun on amazon.


Lest anybody just thinks this is elizardbits being funny, holy shit, you can.

And the Customer Questions & Answers has both amused and terrified me.

Q: the head is with big net or small net? We want 4 big net.
A: Net is large enough to cover average sized adult -


You know, in case you were curious.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:48 AM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


finally my dream of gamboling on the rooftops, shooting down flying robots like some near-future elf ranger is a tantalizing possibility.
posted by The Whelk at 10:50 AM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Serious question...How well do drones handle bad weather? Like torrential rain or high winds? Or both? Thunderstorms and lightning? Would drone delivery be suspended in the case of bad weather?

Seattle — Amazon's home — will provide a good testbed for most of these challenges for the next six to nine months.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:50 AM on December 2, 2013


Personally, I think using nets to capture *actual* delivery people is much more sporting.
posted by BobbyVan at 10:51 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Only if you practice catch and release hunting, though. It's also a good idea to tag them before you let them go so that we can track their migration patterns.
posted by elizardbits at 10:56 AM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Are they good XP tho?
posted by The Whelk at 10:58 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Waterstones unveils its new delivery vehicles: O.W.L.S. (Ornithological Waterstones Landing Service).

Well played Waterstones - including (especially?) the FAQs and comments!
posted by TwoWordReview at 11:01 AM on December 2, 2013


30 minutes is an interesting delivery time. It imposes many constraints on where these things can be based versus in-flight performance. Still, impossible boundaries can foster interesting adaptations.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:07 AM on December 2, 2013


Blind trust in the abilities of engineers to foresee all possible scenarios is always misplaced.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:14 AM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


If this is totally automated, that means the flight paths will be set and can be monitored with a powerful enough telescope, right?

My question has nothing to do with my tiny Jolly Roger flag store at all. At all.
posted by griphus at 11:21 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Blind trust in the abilities of engineers to foresee all possible scenarios may always be misplaced, but believing that they wouldn't have thought of, say, collisions in midair at all is frankly insulting.

(They have. Eg.)
posted by seyirci at 11:29 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh and: Ambushing them might be physically easy, but Amazon (and then the cops) would know exactly where it happened, they would have video of it happening, and they (Amazon and cops) would be able to send more drones to follow you.

That's why you would, ideally, do it with another drone in a randomly-chosen spot in the flight path and have it drop the cargo in a discreet and anonymous location well out of the way of the flight path.

Of course, going through the trouble of making an armed, manually-controlled pirate drone that can capture a falling box (or otherwise take it from the Amazon drone) is a monumentally pointless idea because, like you said, Pampers. But "monumentally pointless idea" is basically a siren call for an bored engineer with a sociopathic bent, an audience and more money than sense.
posted by griphus at 11:36 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


There will be theft and sabotage. And then prosecutions.

Why do people think this is going to be a huge thing? We already have robots in remote locations that watch over easily transportable objects that humans value greatly. They're called ATMs, and last I checked, the banks were doing quite well after their foolhardy decision to use these contraptions across the world.
posted by FJT at 11:42 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Amazon Prime AirWolf
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:43 AM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Any excuse to not show a profit I guess.
posted by PenDevil at 11:47 AM on December 2, 2013


I have Airwolf. This is not code language. I am flying Airwolf because I own Airwolf.
posted by The Whelk at 11:47 AM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


They're called ATMs, and last I checked, the banks were doing quite well after their foolhardy decision to use these contraptions across the world.

All the security around an ATM revolves around a few points:
-They are incredibly heavy and oftentimes bolted into the ground/wall.
-They are multiply reinforced and quite difficult to get into even with tools.
-Their unsecured opening only dispenses slips of paper

To make a delivery drone that easily flies through the air and delivers boxes of varying size, you need to build the exact opposite of all of that.
posted by griphus at 11:58 AM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


If this is totally automated, that means the flight paths will be set and can be monitored with a powerful enough telescope, right?

Wouldn't be too hard to randomize those flight paths quite a bit.

But "monumentally pointless idea" is basically a siren call for an bored engineer with a sociopathic bent, an audience and more money than sense.

I would totally watch the "Aerial Combat vs. Amazon Drone Copters" YouTube channel.
posted by straight at 12:09 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I must disagree with those who think people will shoot these down with shotguns or slingshots and loot the contents. Nets or webbing to tangle the rotors is the way to go; much less risk of damaging the contents.

Even with a sniper rifle, you'd have a very hard time hitting a drone cruising at 300 ft. If it only descends when it's directly over the delivery point, you'd get a better, less-risky haul following UPS trucks around and grabbing packages the truck leaves on people's doorsteps.
posted by straight at 12:13 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


But Amazon is one of the smartest companies in the world. They run systems that power half the internet. They are at the absolute forefront of distribution and supply chain management. And they employ literally tens of thousands of engineers.

Does it not stand to reason that, at some point, somebody thought about the same simple and obvious issues you just did and worked though them?


It may be feasible, but it's still completely fucking dumb.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:15 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Can you imagine, out for a walk in the beautiful sunshine, birds chirping, leaves rustling, happy dog smiling up at you, then here comes this fucking thing buzzing overhead

Sure, but I don't know if it's any worse than being out for a walk, sunshine, birds, happy dog I've picked up from somewhere, etc, and a UPS truck drives by.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:47 PM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


To make a delivery drone that easily flies through the air and delivers boxes of varying size, you need to build the exact opposite of all of that.

Yes, and we've made fighter jets, helicopters, and even military drones that are able to balance those two goals. Plus, you don't have to make it absolutely secure, just secure enough to stop most attacks. Running a quick search on ATM break-ins show that they happen relatively often across the world, but they are still being used.

I don't see drones filling the sky overnight. It's going to take at least 25 years for this to work properly, be profitable, and get adopted by enough people. And that's plenty of time to work out all the problems that people have listed.
posted by FJT at 12:47 PM on December 2, 2013


Ernest Borgnine!
posted by Mid at 1:35 PM on December 2, 2013


Sure, but I don't know if it's any worse than being out for a walk, sunshine, birds, happy dog I've picked up from somewhere, etc, and a UPS truck drives by.

Except it's not either/or, it's both. Even if Amazon drones completely replaced Amazon UPS deliveries you'd still have UPS (and other) trucks on the road.

I don't see drones filling the sky overnight. It's going to take at least 25 years for this to work properly, be profitable, and get adopted by enough people.


It probably took 25 years for us to evolve into a society that is fully immersed in advertising, all the way down to the floor you walk on in the supermarket. There was once talk of launching advertising satellites into space, too.

I don't want drones filling the sky, period.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:44 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Can you imagine, out for a walk in the beautiful sunshine, birds chirping, leaves rustling, happy dog smiling up at you, then here comes this fucking thing buzzing overhead

FUCKING BEES, AMIRITE?!
posted by sonika at 1:57 PM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]




Only amazon can get away with advertising absolute obvious vaporware and be praised for it.

OK, you built a drone that can carry a box. Wonderful. Anyone with a few days and access to the internet and model building skills could have done the same. But amazon does it, and it's this amazing, revolutionary idea.

It's 5-10 years away. There's nothing to stop Walmart from setting up the same thing in that timeframe.

Conclusion? This is just holiday advertising for amazon.
posted by autobahn at 2:42 PM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


There's nothing to stop Walmart from setting up the same thing in that timeframe.

Except for the lack of a comparable pool of IT staff and developers to write the software and manage the infrastructure to pull this off, sure.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:46 PM on December 2, 2013


Oh god, imagine Wal-Mart trying to implement this given its labor practices. The drones would cost half as much as Amazon's to deploy but at least half of them would crash within a hundred yards of takeoff because paying for QA is communism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:48 PM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't want drones filling the sky, period.

That's actually an easy fix. Just go to Settings ->Visual Filters and uncheck "see aircraft and drones" on your smartglasses.
posted by FJT at 2:57 PM on December 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Here's a great thought: drones following you around blasting you with advertising while you are walking your dog!
posted by double block and bleed at 2:58 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


If a floating robot distracted my dog from the veritable smorgasbord of rotten food and chicken bones that is my neighborhood's streets, it could advertise whatever it damn well pleased.
posted by griphus at 3:04 PM on December 2, 2013


(The robot could also clean the street or maybe electrocute the neighbors.)
posted by griphus at 3:06 PM on December 2, 2013


Not looking at ads is a form of theft you know, I could know, I'm part of a distributed network paid to click on various online ads at a randomly generated interval in order to kee ad tates up. It doesn't pay, but it's great exposure, especially since unemployment is punishable with jail time where you don't even get a cushioned seat when you have to ad click.
posted by The Whelk at 3:07 PM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would pay good money for a floating robot to precede me everywhere I go, shooting glitterbombs and playing Gettin Jiggy Wit It at a moderate yet tasteful volume.
posted by elizardbits at 3:12 PM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I want my flying robot to trill menacingly at people and bring me fries on command.
posted by The Whelk at 3:16 PM on December 2, 2013


But aside from the obvious logistical issues...

These will be worked out in time, along with issues of theft, interruptions,etc. It's just a matter of time.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:48 PM on December 2, 2013


All we need to make this work is household drone servants or companions to open the door for the delivery drones. I hear there was a guy near Toronto working on making one...
posted by happyroach at 4:44 PM on December 2, 2013


I would pay good money for a floating robot to precede me everywhere I go, shooting glitterbombs and playing Gettin Jiggy Wit It at a moderate yet tasteful volume.

I will do this for you, cheaply. How can I practically give away this service? Volume!
posted by Room 641-A at 5:01 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


People hating this idea: Don't worry. Just move to Canada. It will take us another decade until it gets here. I mean, Google has killed services before they came to Canada (Google Voice), and it still takes 7-12 days to get an Amazon package if you don't feel like paying stupid money for express shipping.
posted by Canageek at 5:35 PM on December 2, 2013


How much fuel does a drone use? How much fuel does a drone use carrying a flat screen? Is it less or more than a truck? I ask in all seriousness because this sounds like a horrific plan given our resource issues - the last thing we need, surely, is more fuel consumption because people need that TV RIGHT NOW. And I can't wait until these start to mess with migration patterns of birds, let alone all the potential privacy/noise/pain in the ass issues of these.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 6:52 PM on December 2, 2013


Note that, in the video, the box that the drone carries is 12" x 8" max. They aren't going to be choppering you a television any time soon.
posted by rifflesby at 7:45 PM on December 2, 2013


Also it's likely these are battery-powered, since a gas engine would be far too heavy. Batteries can be charged with anything, including solar.
posted by rifflesby at 7:46 PM on December 2, 2013


Note that, in the video, the box that the drone carries is 12" x 8" max. They aren't going to be choppering you a television any time soon.

That makes it even more pointless. I mean, I guess there might be a desperate need for drones to drop off loo roll at your house RIGHT NOW, but I can't help feeling that that need might be outweighed by the benefits of not having Amazon drones flitting overhead.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:02 PM on December 2, 2013


That makes it even more pointless

Just because something is pointless to you doesn't mean it is for others. I mean, most of the things we think are essential in the West are things they do without in the Rest (like toilet paper).
posted by FJT at 9:19 PM on December 2, 2013


Here's a great thought: drones following you around blasting you with advertising while you are walking your dog!

Apropos of nothing, we used Google's nav to get us home from Chicago last weekend and the return trip took us an unusual route, part past a bunch of businesses. We pondered if it was taking us this way due to traffic, or if a local business had paid for some new form of advertising.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:00 AM on December 3, 2013


And thus a meme was born
posted by jeffburdges at 12:54 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


UPS researching delivery drones that could compete with Amazon's Prime Air

This headline is way too sexy as it sort of implies they'd be dog-fighting each other, especially if you forget that "Prime Air" is the name; one carrier will rule the air -- which one will it be?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:13 PM on December 3, 2013


Ars Technica: Hacker's flying contraption hunts other drones and turns them into zombies
SkyJack works by monitoring the media access control (MAC) addresses of all Wi-Fi devices within radio range. When it finds a MAC address belonging to a block of addresses used by Parrot AR.Drone vehicles, SkyJack uses the open-source Aircrack-ng app for Wi-Fi hacking to issue a command that disconnects the vehicle from the iOS or Android device currently being used to control and monitor it. Operators of the flying hacker drone are then able to use their own smart device to control the altitude, speed, and direction of the hijacked drone and to view its live video feeds.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:29 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The every-increasing growth of disruptive technologies is just amazing. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to Amazon Rockets--deliveries in 5 minutes or less!!
posted by mondo dentro at 9:36 AM on December 4, 2013


I thought that was going to be a link to something like this.
posted by XMLicious at 4:00 PM on December 4, 2013




"The ACLU’s casual attitude on private drones is beyond puzzling. Given the proliferation of private security contractors and the increasing outsourcing of the most sensitive intelligence work to private companies, it’s clear that private drones can pose just as much of a risk as government drones. In his great book “Spies For Hire,” Tim Shorrock points out that by 2006, at least 70 percent of our national intelligence budget was being funneled towards private contractors. Shorrock obtained a PowerPoint presentation on private contracting prepared by the Office of National Intelligence which put it straight: “We can’t spy . . . If we can’t buy.” If anything, given that the private sector is structured to be less transparent and less accountable to the public than even the most secretive government agencies, private drones pose an even greater risk."
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:44 PM on December 7, 2013


MIT Technology Review — Separating Hype from Reality on Amazon’s Drones: Amazon says it wants to offer 30-minute drone delivery. But companies actually working on the technology outline the limitations.

And just wait until FAA regulations require onboard video cameras and GPS recorders as little black boxes. Yet another data set to keep us safe in the global war on terror...
posted by cenoxo at 10:03 AM on December 8, 2013




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