Make that really special delivery

ALBANY HERALD EDITORIAL: Amazon sparks debate with drone delivery project

Will pizzas one day be delivered by a flying drone?

As far-fetched as the idea sounds, it’s conceivable to some degree, primarily because one of the nation’s biggest Internet retailers is looking at using unmanned aircraft technology to deliver small packages.

On Sunday, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, in interview on “60 Minutes,” revealed his idea of delivering small products to Amazon’s millions of customers’ residenced through use of a fleet of unmanned drones.

The idea sparked immediate debate, though its implementation — if ever — is far from immediate. Bezos noted that technology that would allow electric minicopters to fly to programmed addresses with packages is early in its development phase. The United States, meanwhile, doesn’t have any rules set for the use of unmanned aircraft by civilians and likely won’t before 2015.

Oh, and some folks just may not want a flying robot dropping by the house to make a delivery.

Already dubbed Prime Air by Bezos, the small copters would deliver packages that weigh 5 pounds or less to addresses up to 10 miles from one of Amazon’s fulfillment centers and make the delivery within 30 minutes. Bezos showed a video on “60 Minutes” of one of the minicopters placing a package on a customer’s patio.

He also said he believes drone delivery can happen in four or five years, predicting it will “be a lot of fun.”

Whether that’s the case is anyone’s guess, but a company like Amazon gives the idea some immediate credibility and concern, particularly for those who want to ensure their privacy.

Still, if Amazon is looking seriously at it, it safe to bet that other companies will, too. When you think about it, a flying robotic pizza delivery may not be that unrealistic.

The one saving grace in all of this, if you want to describe it that way, is that the federal government will have to move forward with the rules governing use of civilian drones, something that is now handled on a case-by-case basis. And if the federal government has shown nothing else in the past several years, it has clearly demonstrated a proclivity for inertia. Plus, this idea is tailored made for Congress to slow to a crawl as they look for popular positions to exploit. And nothing can drone on quite like a congressional lawmaker.

So don’t order that air-delivery pizza just yet. It’ll be pretty cold by the time it’s actually delivered.

The Albany Herald Editorial Board