back to article Amazon begs Feds for drone test permission slip has written to the USA's Federal Aviation Administration asking to be exempted from rules governing the operation of the “small unmanned aircraft systems” – which it hopes to use in its Prime Air delivery-by-drone service. The letter points out that “Current FAA rules allow hobbyists and manufacturers of model …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't wait to have to permanently wear a hard hat when walking the dog.

    1. DropBear

      No need, really - 55 pounds of drone falling out of the sky will flatten it quite effectively, along with whoever wears it. But to be fair, the very nature of many-rotor aircraft means they can be engineered for practically bulletproof reliability if one chooses so, and I wouldn't be surprised if Amazon decided to fly them mostly over rooftops anyway.

      1. Martin Gregorie

        But to be fair, the very nature of many-rotor aircraft means they can be engineered for practically bulletproof reliability

        Maybe so, but no amount of reliability can stop it falling out of the sky after it hits a wire the operator didn't see or after some miscreant throws a missile trailing a Kevlar line through its rotor disk(s).

        1. bigtimehustler

          Yes, but this wouldn't be Amazon at fault, much like if you shoot down a police helicopter and it falls on people below, it is not the police held responsible, the person shooting it down goes to prison for a very long time. If you shoot down any aerial vehicle and it hits someone, thats you doing the killing, not the company owning the device, there are plenty of severe laws surrounding this already.

      2. Stevie

        55 pounds of drone falling out of the sky


        tests done by a friend of mine back in the late 70s/early 80s proved conclusively that were the flattened person to be wearing Toe-Tectors footwear, his/her toes would survive nicely (he was intrigued by the wording of the Toe-Tector 10 kiloquid compensation-to-surviving-family guarantee for people who "died as a result of toe injuries while wearing Toe-Tectors")

        Presumably an Amazon/Toe-Tector joint project to market the foortwear and to offer cloning services to the newly drone-squished will soon be announced to the eager press.

    2. lambda_beta

      Not to Worry!!

      Not to worry ... at 400ft and 55lb it will hit you at ~110miles/hr. It would be like getting hit by a 1-ton auto travelling at ~20mi/hr.

  2. Ole Juul

    Impressive, but

    These obviously won't replace transport trucks, so when they say reduce truck traffic they're talking about the last bit or "local loop". So, exactly what kind of distance can they transport 5 lbs. and still have enough oomph to get back? Also, say a local delivery truck gets stuffed with one ton, that could represent 400 drone flights. Is that a good trade off? I think these drones are cool, but there could be a lot of buzzing about.

  3. Ole Juul

    Hard hat?

    If your dog is under 5 pounds, you may also want to put weights on it.

  4. CaptainBanjax


    All this testing and investment and I bet the drone still cant ring the door bell.

    How will we know they've arrived? A warning shot?

    1. bigtimehustler

      Re: airdrop

      Why does it need a door bell, it could come with a loud door bell and produce the sound itself! ha

  5. dan1980

    "The letter's hints at applications for formal certification of its fleet also make it plain that Amazon is deadly serious about delivery by drone."

    Can't they just be deadly serious about their publicity stunts?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      "Deadly serious"?? Do they have former CIA drone operators on board? If not, it might help their cause.

  6. Bob Hoskins

    That NASA astronaut will come in handy.

    Enough said.

    1. Stevie

      Re: That NASA astronaut will come in handy.

      I think we should start a write-in campaign to get legislation passed in all countries in which these things will fly to the effect that "No Delivery Drone shall take off unless properly crewed by a Playmonaut equipped with the requisite environmental suit".

  7. Ol' Grumpy

    I wonder how long it will be before some enterprising person works out how to shoot them down and grab free amazon goodies! :)

    1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

      Ah, we thought of that, Grumpy!

      "So that we can be aware of the situation of the aircraft at all times, it is equipped with high-resolution cameras which continuously transmit back to the operator and record to remote storage. In the event that nobody appears at the property to receive an air-drop delivery, the drone will fly to windows and other suitable apertures to survey the interior to ascertain occupancy.

      While this will have the useful effect of deterring theft or violence directed at the aircraft, it may also prove to be a useful source of data, e.g. to recommend exciting deals on replacement of tired home furnishings.", a company spokesdroid did not say when asked.

      1. Goldmember

        Re: Ah, we thought of that, Grumpy!

        And to send any nudie shots they happen to capture back to GCHQ, of course...

      2. DNTP

        Re: Ah, we thought of that, Grumpy!

        "…a battery of useful sensors covering non-visible wavelengths to determine sales viability assessments of diverse items such as replacement toaster ovens, extended warranties on game consoles, and of course your usual range of sexual assistance products."

  8. Julian Taylor

    Oh God, is it 1st April again already?

  9. cracked

    Gifts From Above

    A year after its London launch, Amazon's fleet of airborne drones provides lightening-fast delivery of lightweight items to the Capital's affluent, home-bound shoppers, at a premium price. While – as Barcelona Metcalfe reports – the semi-autonomous quad-copters also provide rich pickings for a few resourceful members of London's teenage poor.

    One evening last week, along with my photographer, George, I met Shannon (not her real name) on the north side of the Broadchalk Hill Estate. From our meeting point we could see shadowy figures in front of one of the twelve tower-blocks, dancing around a sofa not long set alight.

    By a series of walkways and flights of stairs, Shannon – who gave her age as nineteen, although she looked closer to fifteen – took us to the roof of one of the towers; where we were introduced to Fly.

    Wearing a tattered Manchester United home shirt – current seven or eight seasons ago - and a pair of baggy combat trousers that were two sizes too big, Fly jogged over to meet us as we emerged on to the roof from a maintenance door.

    It could not have been much above freezing and the boy's arms were tinged blue; but he didn't seem to notice, no sign of a shiver in his voice.

    “This them who want to see us take one down?” he asked Shannon.

    She giggled and nodded; tongued-tied in the presence of Fly.

    Shannon stayed by the maintenance door, with two other teenage girls who had come up onto the roof to watch. I stood with Fly – and George - his shaved-head no higher than my shoulder, staring into the fading light of the late evening sky.

    I ask about his family, but if there was one he didn't seem interested in talking about them. It's possible that he did have a mother living somewhere nearby; but I'm not certain I heard him correctly.

    He told us he would be sixteen next month, he looked no older than twelve. I asked him about school, but that only made him laugh.

    Down below on the estate we heard a police siren, Fly laughed at my expression, “They're not comin' for us. Yet.”

    Then suddenly he was alert, peering East into the night sky, “There! See it?”

    Frankly I didn't (and neither did George). But I could see that Fly did. His eyes never leaving a point in the sky I was still unable to locate, he advanced slowly across the roof. Pulling something from the back pocket of his baggy trousers, he turned quickly back to face me.

    “See it now?” he shouted, then turned around again, readying himself.

    I am not permitted to disclose how Fly brought down the craft. But only moments after I had spotted it, the thirty kilo quad-copter was lying wrecked before us on the rooftop.

    I was readying to ask what happened next; but Fly was already demonstrating. Levering the quad-copter onto its side, he pried open the belly with a small crowbar.

    In less than a minute small, brown cardboard parcels - Amazon-logos emblazoned on all sides - were piling at his feet. Whistling and giggling to himself as he cut them open, like any kid on Christmas morning he discarded the contents of some, moving straight on to the next. While the contents of others were stuffed into his rucksack, accompanied by a little laugh or a muttered price.

    We heard another siren, this time even I could tell it was close by. Fly tensed and for a moment looked just like any other twelve year old boy might; then he grinned at me and stood.

    “Gotta go. You be OK?”. I nodded; amazed as his bravado; George could not help but laugh.

    And he was gone, sprinting across the roof top shouting something inaudible – to me at least – at Shannon as he went. The girls disappeared through the maintenance exit from which we had earlier emerged; Fly headed in the opposite direction, to a similar exit on the far side of the roof.

    The girls had been dispatched to lead the police away from Fly – Successfully - A fact I learned later that night, having spoken at the scene with the Met's Chief Superintendent Peter Briscoe.

    As we surveyed the wreckage together and I confirmed the method used to bring down the semi-autonomous craft, Superintendent Briscoe shook his head.

    “Fourth of these big units this week” he told me, “It would be cheaper and easier to fly around dropping gift cards”.

    1. Robert Helpmann??

      Re: Gifts From Above

      All of that lovely Friday prose can be summed up in one word: predictable! Still, the gift card idea has some merit. Perhaps Amazon can shift from a sales model to one financed by ads...

      1. cracked

        Re: Gifts From Above

        The gift card idea was (sadly) it, all and everything, Rob ;-)

        That's a 700 word intro for a 50 word "punch line"

        It's fun to do ... but 3 hours from seeing the OP to posting the "Article" is a bit of a killer (time zones are no help). Any slower and the OP would be 3/4 of the way down the Reg's front page and never read again (never mind the Comments) ... tbh, 3 hours is too long

        Thanks for reading, though - I gave it a 5/10, or thereabouts (DVT, a couple of months back, was better, I think) :-)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Gifts From Above

        > All of that lovely Friday prose can be summed up in one word

        Good prose though. He's got the touch.

  10. Stevie


    I see this as a move to panic rival e-stores into ill-advised and ruinously expensive delivery drone programs of their own.

    When these rivals have run themselves into bankruptcy, Amazon will ride in to rescue the wailing shareholders from penury.

  11. armster

    And where is your warehouse?

    I just have to wonder (in addition to the mind boggling number of drones needed to replace an ordinary or even autonomous truck) if a 30min delivery @ 50mph is reasonable they do need a warehouse within 20miles of any person served, and not just a distribution warehouse, the whole point is that I can order my thingy and receive it in 30 minutes. So they need a stocking warehouse within 20 miles of say downtown LA, San Francisco, NY, London, Paris.... Wonder how many million dollars that would cost.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: And where is your warehouse?

      Exactly right. Moving and hour or two outside of a major city often means warehouses that are considerably cheaper. That still provides for next day service and the possibility of same day pick up if one wants to drive over or have a private courier make the delivery. There are times when getting something the same day can be far cheaper than waiting for the next day. Large manufacturers will sometimes charter a corporate jet to get a parts delivery within hours. A automobile assembly line might cost a company over £100k/hour to have idled over a missing part.

  12. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Target rich enviroment

    Cracked's story has the clear ring of possibility to it. UAS delivery is going to be expensive and that means that the only things worth shipping with it will also be very expensive. Knocking one out of the air to nick the contents of the bin is likely to be very profitable.

    Another dodge is using the service to get items delivery quickly and within a specified time frame. If somebody is going to use a stolen credit card number to make a few purchases, they can have the bounty shipped to the already listed address within a narrow time frame instead of having to wait around for the delivery truck to come around and pose as the purchaser. One could even go a step further if they know the routes the UAV's typically follow. Order what you want with the stolen credit card, wait for the UAS to fly over using the instant GPS online tracking I'm sure the marketeers will insist on, and knock it down.

    It must be MBA's freshly recovered from their required lobotomies that are pushing this project. As an engineer, I can come up with a dozen ways to "acquire" a delivery UAS without expending too many ergs thinking about it. An express courier service traveling by car (or bicycle) would be far less expensive and more secure than any UAS could ever be. The insurance would be cheaper as well.

    Quite aside from the value of the kit being delivered, parts from the UAS will fetch a few quid too.

    1. cracked

      Re: Target rich enviroment

      "the clear ring of possibility" - tvm Mach :-)

      Julian T posted above mine, was it 1st April? And the OP would be one of the best type of April Fool prank. Completely implausible idea, until you think about it for just a little while when ... hey, you know what! But then, no, it's back to being silly ... unless, wouldn't it?! But no, of course not.

      Makes me smile each time I think about it.

      Trouble is - like the flying car so popular here for so long - it is tech that techies would like to see developed. It's probably coincidence, but Dabsy included the famous lines from Bladerunner in his earlier Friday piece; and one of the famous scenes - at the beginning - from that film (one of the few bits of sci-fi world you see) is the shots of the flying vehicles and finally Ford taking off in his ride.

      Sci-Fi imagines the stuff IT then tries to develop. No one really wants to work on a revision of the front end to the company bookkeeping system; everyone really wants to code things that blow stuff up (and do that while flying).

      The current military use of drones also makes the tech seem more viable than it did 10-years ago

      And so, all that said ... would drone-delivery ever work? ;-)

      High value small items, delivered very quickly (within 2 hours), at a premium delivery price, from edge-of-city warehouses. Given Andrew's thing with the music industry, CDs is a good value/weight ratio ... but obviously CDs would be dead by this point in the future ;-). So jewellery and similar items.

      And you are quite right, because it has to be high value to work, that makes them a target for thieves. They would have to land, to deliver, when they would be vulnerable.

      But then a trend towards "secure accommodation" with gates and guards and such (and so secure delivery acceptance and storage) offsets that somewhat.

      And the actual delivery service could pay for itself ... maybe? (Some) People are silly enough to pay a lot to have an order in their hand very quickly. The faster logistics systems deliver things, the faster people want them delivered. $50 to have it in one-hour (I think people would queue for the service).

      2-hour max delivery time, still gives enough time that you can stack a drone with multiple deliveries. Routing system to figure out which drones take which orders. Get say 50 on board at $50 a delivery and that's $2500 revenue from just the delivery element of the service.

      Are you a wanker banker? Want your lunch made by the famous 5* chef who's just opened a restaurant in Sevenoaks? Shame you are based in the city centre ... even if you send The-Boy it will be cold by the time he gets back with it ... Wait a moment; got $200 to spare, on top of the cost of the lunch?


      (Honestly, I think if there is a plausible reason for the tech, it would be on very large Amazon sites, carting stuff from storage point to storage point, or whatever. Moving stuff by air - much heavier stuff, in a controlled environment - would mean fewer much larger warehouse complexes were viable. That's about the best non-Bladerunner concept I can come up with)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The thing should be able to open windows and fly through them / down chimneys.

    That way, when I realise my mistake, I could just order bog paper and wait for it still sitting on the throne, instead of having to go Arab¹ on it.

    ¹ Use of left hand, followed by water if possible. A skill helpfully mastered during my sandy days. Excuse the one-handed typing btw. :(

  14. David Roberts
    Black Helicopters

    Looking at this the wrong way round?

    Second attempt - damn Android pad ate my first post.

    Everyone seems to be focussing on the 'push' model of delivery where you have to be home at the right time for a van/car driver to deliver.

    Now if you order from Amazon you probably already have an Internet connection at home.

    You may well have used a local store to hold your delivery for you until you are ready to collect.

    Alternatively you may want to take a delivery in your lunch hour when around your work place.

    So how about a local store with a drone deck?

    You arrive home (prepare to leave work) and check your email and you have a delivery waiting.

    You click on the 'send now' option, and go outside, turning on your Amazon Delivery Wand with your unique ID without which the drone will not release the package to you.

    Urban dwellers can also go out into the back garden or yard.

    City dwellers in multi-storey properties can go out onto the balcony or open a very large window.

    Drone arrives, wand used, package delivered.

    Better still, you have a Portable Amazon Drone Deck with built in ID which removes the risk of you getting too close to whirling bits.

    This can be hung out of a suitable window if you don't have access to a garden. patio, yard, whatever.

    Or permanently mounted on a wall like a Sky dish.

    Or carried (rolled up?) under your arm if you are taking a delivery during the working day.

    So now you have an on-demand delivery system which can do the final few miles at whatever time of day or night you are ready to accept the package.

    Especially good with urban high rises where it cuts out all the stairs/doors/lifts to be negotiated.

    Also wonderful, of course, for the illicit delivery of high value packages such as drugs and weapons.....

    This assumes really good collision avoidance software in the drone which will allow it to land on a clear spot in a city park without slicing up passers by.

    This also assumes reliable automation to load the drone, or the exploitation of minimum wage workers on zero hours contracts to load the darn things at unsocial hours.

    Helicopter for cool technology and red triangle for associated risks from spinning stuff.

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