Amazon's Drone Delivery System Sounds Terrifying — Here's Why It Isn't
Amazon just applied for a patent that could let the giant online retailer ship you small items wherever you are, even if you're literally on the move.
The new Amazon PrimeAir delivery option, "Bring It to Me," would use your phone's GPS to establish your location, then send that data to the inventory location. Even if that location changed — say, you traveled from your house to your office — Amazon's drone-delivery system could spot you on the map and bring the package to you at work.
Amazon details an example of the new delivery option in the patent application:
In some implementations, the location of the user may be maintained and updated until the item is delivered to the user. ... the user may place an order for an item while at home, select to have the item delivered to their current location (delivery within 30 minutes of the order) and then leave to go to their friend's house. ... As the ordered item is retrieved from inventory, the current location of the user's mobile device may be determined and the delivery location correspondingly updated. As such, the ordered item will be delivered to the user while the user is at their friend's house, or any other location.
The drone can update its route to avoid collisions or crashes, and when it reaches its final destination, it would find an area at the drop point where it can safely land and where nothing will happen to the package. Your new beard trimmer won't end up on top of your apartment or in a swimming pool.
Drones monitoring your location and hunting you down with gifts from Amazon sounds a little scary. But the location-tracking isn't required; you don't have to give Amazon permission to track your phone. And you should know that just about any GPS-enabled app on your phone makes you traceable.
If you aren't worried about a company having access to your location, just think about the potential this technology has. You could get an umbrella delivered straight to you during a surprise thunderstorm. You could have snacks sent straight to your picnic in Central Park. You could even order a small boat part if you're stranded in water.
For the 12-year-old in all of us, the prank potential here is incredible: Borrow a friend's phone before a big date and send a drone to surprise him with hemorrhoid cream or a 12-pack of Trojans.
There are, of course, a few hurdles left between the patent's approval and the launch of the delivery system, which is still in the testing stage. According to CNN, the Federal Aviation Administration's testing rules are pretty strict. Drones must be flown at 400 feet or lower during the day in clear weather conditions and the operator, who needs to have at least a private pilot's certification, must be able to see the drone at all times.
But if Amazon keeps having its way with government regulations, our skies may soon be filled with anything from raincoats to cold-sore ointment. We may soon witness the future of hyper-convenience — and some obnoxious pranks, too.