Amazon’s quest for aerial domination

Imagine being able to order a product and have it show up at your doorstep less than 30 minutes after you purchased it.

Amazon believes it will be able to fulfill that expedited delivery vision through its Amazon Prime Air service, which would utilize drones as package-shipping agents.

The Seattle-based e-commerce giant released a video this week detailing the plans for Prime Air and the future fleet of drones that could travel up to 15 miles, climb as high as 400 feet, and use technology to detect hazards in the air and on the ground.

Here, Vincent Harris, University Distinguished Professor and William Lincoln Smith Chair Professor in the College of Engineering, explains why there is a lot of work to be done in the technological and public policy realms before Prime Air takes off.

On the technological advances of the project

Harris: It appears to me that the Amazon drones have been designed with two variables optimized: one is package weight and the other is time of flight. The GPS technology and video feeds look very sophisticated as well.

factsOn Federal Aviation Administration regulations

Harris: “The Federal Aviation Administration must take into account the balance between U.S. companies becoming more competitive on the world stage and intrusions on the public’s privacy and safety. The FAA is considering a specialized aspect of drone production to be able to control and mitigate possible threats.”

On other companies using drones for commercial use

Harris: “The food service industry has the perfect combination of distance and package weight to utilize drones. We will soon see Domino’s Pizza drone deliveries. Public health officials are also using drones to track sharks and locate distressed swimmers in the ocean.”

On whether drones will take over the skies

Harris: “The FAA will move methodically and in measure (According to a report by Business Insider Intelligence, regulations could come by 2017). However, I anticipate that there could be aerial pathways identified for drones to operate in for delivery and transport that will not be overly intrusive. In these instances drones can either use the same anti-collision technologies used in cars to keep a safe distance from one another or form queues.”