TechMunch: How close are we to drones delivering packages to our front door steps?

In the past couple of years, drones have been the hot tech ticket. They’ve barely left the news and debate regarding their use – from security, to privacy, air laws, personal usage and safety issues – has been hotly contested and continues to rage on to this day.

After 18 months since Amazon first announced it was testing drones to deliver goods to its customers, how close are we to seeing them speed across the skies to our front doors?

Well, the good news is, it was reported in March this year that Amazon is still in the process of testing drones for commercial use, particularly for new business venture Amazon Prime Air.  They have apparently been testing these drones in a secret space in Canada after facing legal restrictions in the USA.

Amazon and organizations such as Facebook pushing for changes to these rules can be encouraged by the recent success of the first US government-approved drone, which transported medical equipment and supplies to an urban health clinic. There are other FAA planned drone tests to follow this, giving Amazon’s venture greater hope for the future.

It seems Amazon is serious about this becoming a reality, having gone as far as creating an airspace design for small drone operations. This airspace would be 200ft to 400ft away from the ground and would allow high speed deliveries within the hour. Facebook is even following suit, reportedly investing millions in to the purchase of drones, clearly believing this will become a way of the modern world.

However, progress could soon be delayed. The idea may be exciting and have countless benefits for consumers (not least making us all feel a bit like we’re in a James Bond movie); however the FAA are serious about implementing strict guidelines for the commercial use of drones.  This is especially a concern due to numerous recent reports of drones hovering and nearly clashing with airliners near the JFK airport. This problem is sure to not help Amazons call for the FAA to deregulate. The FAA has spoken of its concern that more education and regulation is needed for drones regarding the recent events.

In light of this, the success of the recent drone delivery testing shows the FAA is not going to completely block Amazon’s plans, but it needs to adjust its guidelines and restrictions appropriately (this could happen within a year, while some reports stating this process has already begun).

The US has stricter guidelines than countries in Europe, so progress there may take a while longer, but signs are positive for our next huge technological development.

The venture of delivery drones is edging closer. Drones won’t be delivering to our door steps in the next few months; however we have reason to believe in the next few years they could be buzzing over our heads and dropping off goods within the hour!

Frankie Collins, Intern, Technology