back to article Sounds like the black helicopters have come for us. Oh, just another swarm of FAA-approved Amazon delivery drones

Amazon has won approval to deliver packages by drone across the United States, meaning that customers could soon receive lightweight orders within 30 minutes but at a cost: drone delivery bots soaring overhead. On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave the e-commerce giant the right to carry property on drones …

  1. IceC0ld Silver badge

    limited to a 5lb weight ?

    so how high, and how fast are we talking ?

    and what is the impact velocity of said parcel if dropped from 200 ft whilst travelling at 30 mph ?

    also, as alluded to in the article, just how many drones do they plan to let loose ?

    as well as times available to the drones ?

    I, for one, am dead set against this, a pointless exercise in getting everyone underneath the flight path pissed off, and I live under an airport flight path, and that is bad enough, even if, on occasion, I do get to see some remarkable aircraft at, what appears to be VERY close proximity :o)

    and as for the weight limit, how long before they request it goes up ? 10, 20, 30 lb's

    all this will be taking away from white van man's income too I suppose ?

    to me it appears to be something for somethings sake

    was going to use progress, but that is one step too many for me :o)

    1. Barking mad

      Annoyingly, it's unlikely the FAA will let them more than 400' above the terrain because that would mean getting them involved in ATC operations.

      However, the FAA has been working on a ID system for drones which seems to be much like the IDENT system for aircraft.

      Factoid: in most of Los Angeles there are only two places you can legally fly a drone, both are for model aircraft flyers. Everywhere else you either too close to an airport or in a protected area like the beach or Santa Monica Mountains or both.

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        The biggest problem we have finding model flying sites is noise -- homeowners dislike even the quiet whine of electric propulsion. A secondary problem is potential fire danger. One local site was shut down after an electric plane crashed and stared a brush fire. We currently have a decent flying site only because we fly sailplanes -- non-powered, launched by winch or hand with no self-contained launch system permitted (despite it being a very popular form of flying).

        Let's face it. Models and homeowners do not mix. Whatever way you want to slice or dice it what Amazon is proposing is delivery by model helicopter. This might be econoimc in the boonies but in urban areas its a guaranteed way to seriously annoy the locals, aka "the customer base". Personally, I think the best innovation that Amazon has made in its delivery system is "Prime Day", the idea that you can elect to group all those small BS orders together and have them delivered once per week. Occasionally you need something right now but for most of the time -- no, not really.

        (I'm a bit surprised that there's only a couple of places left in LA where you can fly models. I'd guess that a lot of smaller stuff is being flown illegally. It miight also explain why we're graduallly picking up fliers from the area -- we're just over the line in Ventura County.)

        1. Barking mad

          I retract my factoid. I don't know what I was looking at before. Since I maintain that the Internet is the Source of all Bollocks[TM], I should have re-checked. The FAA's B4UFLY app shows that you can fly from Beverley Hills across to Glendale although not over the Santa Monica Mountains.

          Santa Monica prohibits flying model aircraft over beaches and Los Angeles in parks.

    2. Mike 137 Silver badge

      "to me it appears to be something for somethings sake"

      More likely it's another attempt to squeeze out all competition. Amazon wants to be the only shop on the planet, and if they can't do this by offering the best goods (they've never done that reliably) they'll try by offering "unbeatable service". Unfortunately, inconveniencing bystanders and disturbing wildlife are merely "collateral damage" and not their concern.

      If Amazon succeeds, we'll all be much worse off, not least because we'll never be able to inspect the goods before buying or even know that what we get is exactly what we ordered, and they'll continue to profit from slavery.

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Is that a European or an Asian parcel?

      Either way I find this hard to swallow.

    4. c1ue

      I can't say for the less dense areas, but a UPS driver in a major city will have 200+ packages for their route every day.

      Just how much money is saved by having each package loaded into a drone and said drone sent on its way?

      Just how likely is it that said drones will not collide with buildings, utility wires, other drones, birds, kites, trees and what not?

      For rural areas: much longer distances are involved. Sure, the drones can fly "as the crow flies" - but then again maps and survey quality deteriorate in direct inverse proportion to density even as distance traveled increases.

      I suspect the operational reality of drone delivery is just not worthwhile - particularly with $5000 geolocation/sensing packages required.

      And then there's GPS jammers/spoofers. Why bother with porch pirating when your loot can come to you?

  2. HildyJ Silver badge
    WTF?

    Solution in search of a problem

    Two day delivery is nice but I've never upgraded to one day or same day. Living just outside Washington DC, I get more than enough noise from the airport, the two local military bases, and the government, executive, and police helicopters.

    I can imagine their potential customer - the guy who runs out of toilet paper and has to waddle to the door to pick up his drone delivery and waddle back to finish his business.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Solution in search of a problem

      Drone delivery might help - if you live close to the airport then they might end up shutting the airport down after amazon delivers your DVD via a drone.

    2. Keven E

      Re: Solution in search of a problem

      "...how incredibly convenient drones and 30-minute deliveries will be."

      Other than HildyJ's emergency that becomes a real concern if it lasts more than 30min... and getting my pizza delivered (and certainly not from them that currently promise it) nothing delivered really reaches a level of *incredible... perhaps a pencil sharpener to the person with one pencil... maybe...

  3. james 68
    Trollface

    Too soon?

    "what society will make of the first autonomous plane crash."

    I thought Boeing already had dibs on planes that crash autonomously...

  4. RM Myers Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Great

    I live on a flight path for a local university airport, and the slowdown in training flights has been a real blessing noise wise. We still get the occasional jet, but only a couple per day. Considering the number of Amazon deliveries and dogs in my neighborhood, drone delivery could be real fun. I can see this making me wish for the old days with training flight noise.

    1. tip pc Silver badge

      Re: Great

      University airport?

      Things really are on a different scale in the US

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Great

        Its not the university as such - its the spoilt rich parent of spoilt rich kids who dont want their offspring rubbing with the hoi-poloi who may discover the spoilt rich kid probably didnt achieve the grades they did.

      2. J. Cook Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Great

        Could also be a school that trains pilots, and has it's own airport so they can better control the airspace they are using for training.

        1. RM Myers Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Great

          Bingo - you win. It also has a well regarded program in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, although you don't have to have a major in that program to take the pilot training courses.This is a very large state university (60K+ on this campus alone) and the airport is probably 15 miles from the main campus, so I doubt many "rich parents" are using it.

  5. Richard 12 Silver badge

    I've ordered Amazon same-day exactly once

    It was some shoes for a friend who was being discharged from hospital the other side of the country, and unfortunately his original ones had been destroyed due to how he ended up there.

    It was very useful, and I gladly paid for the privilege of having a bike courier do the drop.

    A drone couldn't have done this, as the courier had to go inside and ask the receptionist where my friend was.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: I've ordered Amazon same-day exactly once

      I ordered Amazon same day once. Only to be told it would be two weeks for delivery. And then 6. It was the start of Covid but I was surprised it went from being in stock to sold out after I coughed up.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've ordered Amazon same-day exactly once

      A drone couldn't have done this, as the courier had to go inside and ask the receptionist where my friend was.

      It could just drop it at reception. Given the humongous effort delivery people go through checking the recipient when I receive things (read: none whatsoever) that would fit right in. All it needs is to get inside, but hospital doors tend to open automatically anyway.

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: I've ordered Amazon same-day exactly once

        Not in the East of England they don't.

        Since I smashed my arm I've seen two hospitals [ which number I could before count on one arm before the accident ] with normal doors, and I'm utterly amazed that automatic doors aren't mandatory *. Particularly when they are wheeling a bloke on a stretcher through.

        I have no doubt American hospitals are superior though in most aspects.

        .

        * As should be WC doors; very unhygienic to push them open, even before the present pandemic. I always tried to push the part of the door less touched.

        1. cbars Silver badge

          Re: I've ordered Amazon same-day exactly once

          Push? Push is very hygienic, use your foot. Its the *pull* WC doors I don't understand - one chump being a dirty bugger and you've wasted the soap. All WC doors should be push to exit, no need for motors.

    3. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Re: I've ordered Amazon same-day exactly once

      Maybe the drone can land and detach a miniature robot to interrogate all persons in it's way --- armed, no doubt, since this is Amazon --- which once satisfied, can trot back to the drone and be picked up and seated for it's next mission.

  6. druck Silver badge
    Stop

    Don't let this become the future

    Rm9sbG93ZXJz

    1. Lotaresco Silver badge

      Re: Don't let this become the future

      At least Mulder never gave up.

    2. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: Don't let this become the future

      https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5710984/?ref_=ttep_ep5

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "And it carried out a fully automated remote landing on an even larger plane, "

    *On* an even larger plane?

    I, for one, welcome our new Air-Carrier overlords, etc, etc... :-)

    1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

      Re: "And it carried out a fully automated remote landing on an even larger plane, "

      Fully automated landings have been possible on large aircraft for years - see the Wiki entry for Autoland (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autoland).

      1. Alister Silver badge

        Re: "And it carried out a fully automated remote landing on an even larger plane, "

        That's a whoosh for Duncan Macdonald...

        What the AC was meaning is that as written, the sentence could be interpreted as the autonomous plane landing ON TOP OF a larger plane - i.e an Air Carrier

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: "And it carried out a fully automated remote landing on an even larger plane, "

          And smaller and smaller drones and so on to infinitum...

    2. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: "And it carried out a fully automated remote landing on an even larger plane, "

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNrLPVGL0-4

      I'm pretty sure this was a documentary...

  8. Bowlers

    30 min delivery!

    Is that even possible? A warehouse worker or robot would need to pick the item, package it in a drone friendly way, attach to drone and launch. Say 5min at best so the customer would have to be within 25min range at whatever speed the drone is capable of (or allowed to fly). How many warehouses would be needed even in a smallish country like the UK to make 30min a deliverable option? It will not happen.

    Even same day delivery by drone would depend on range so would limit the effectiveness as a service offering. Then there are issues as raised in the Aussie trial plus the local naughty boys seeing our deliveries as manna from heaven etc.

    I don't think I will see drones delivering goods in 30min in my lifetime, but I am getting on so may it be a safe bet!

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: 30 min delivery!

      > Then there are issues as raised in the Aussie trial

      As the Aussie trial already showed, those issues are filed as "not relevant". Where there is a will (and money to be made), there is a way.

      Never forget you aren't the customer, which means you don't have a say in the matter of how you will be monetized.

      As for the delivery times, well, this system only works in very specific places and conditions anyway, you can't deliver by drone to high rises for instance. So I guess it will be only rolled out to select, high-visibility places, just to create a buzz (pun intended). Given the high investment and operating costs, I don't think delivering nachos or toilet paper by drone can yield any profit.

      1. cbars Silver badge

        Re: 30 min delivery!

        thats what people said when they started selling books... but: volume

    2. cbars Silver badge

      Re: 30 min delivery!

      They couldn't possibly pre-package the top selling items in a standard drone package that can be loaded like a vending machine...?

      Here are some things I would 100% have bought in the past, multiple times, in busy city centre locations where this would be offered: cufflinks, usb stick, charging cable/battery, toothbrush

      Plenty of scope for this in and around train stations in the work week, in my opinion, they'll make it work.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: 30 min delivery!

        > Plenty of scope for this in and around train stations

        I know that "new and shiny" trumps, but wouldn't a quaint vending machine make more sense in this case? Why would you want to wait 30 minutes for a drone to come when a 2 minutes walk can give you those item(s) you needed?

        (And that's before even thinking of the technical problems: Big city train stations are mostly covered (often even underground), crowded, and the biggest entries are barred by high-tension overhead wires. Not the easiest place for a huge self-driving drone to find its way in and back out.)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    1. James Fox

      +1 for serving that image from an S3 bucket

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Is that a good or a bad thing? I just found it on an image search!

        1. Annihilator Silver badge

          S3 being Amazon's cloud storage solution... So there's some level of irony in there somewhere.

  10. Jan 0 Silver badge

    Let's put a stop to this!

    Can anyone recommend a good anti-drone payload for my catapult? Maybe a small fishing weight with a long string tail?

    1. a pressbutton

      Re: Let's put a stop to this!

      I would leave that to your local 'entrepeneurs' who could easily find an air corridor and see what falls at their feet.

    2. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Let's put a stop to this!

      Peace protestors were often buzzed by police/state drones from 2002. It was threatening and annoying so we brainstormed possible responses.

      Your catapult load would require a targetting system. A catapult full of gravel would take any drone down, shotgun style, but anything that goes up comes down so that's not safe.

      We considered barrage balloons, helium party balloons tethered by dent floss where the floss was the risk.

      As a techie I advocated attack drones that would either deliver an EMT blast or block their navigation. (Nobody suggested explosives because, you know, peace protesters)

      In the end we did nothing. Their drones were less annoying and dangerous than their helicopters.

    3. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Let's put a stop to this!

      I think we have previously identified a high pressure water jet as reasonably effective and fairly benign when it falls to earth. Note, though, most jurisdictions do not allow you to take pot shots at drones even over your own land.

  11. hoola Bronze badge

    Tech gone mad

    There are two reasons for this:

    Amazon trying to offer ever more ridiculous delivery times so that Amazon Addicts have even less reason to leave the house.

    Money, the more Amazon do to remove people from the process the more profit they make, whilst continuing to avoid any social and corporate responsibility with there creative tax arrangements.

    This will be fine until it goes wrong and people get hurt. Just like the Tesla Autopilot of all the IOT stuff that is out there, it will go wrong and will more than likely be hacked.

  12. Chris G Silver badge

    I can see that noise may be a problem for some in addition to the ' you weren't in so we dropped your package down the chimney' type of message.

    Aso how long before scallies figure out how to intercept goodies or even hack the drones.

    I propose as a hack proof and silent alternative to use trained swallows to deliver small packages.

    Interception?

    A bird shot crossbow with fruit netting attached to the shot.

  13. My-Handle Silver badge

    3 ways to troll with delivery drones...

    1: Pick something cheap (e.g. a single rubber duck). Pick the delivery point of troll target. Order at 5 or 10 minute intervals until piles of tat build up and target goes nuts from constant drones

    2: Flash-mob drone-style. As above, but organised via social media. Each contributor orders a single drone, to the same target at approximately the same time. Watch in glee as hordes of whining drones descend.

    3: Kamikaze drones. As above, but the target is the Pentagon or White House. All drones get shot out of the sky, depopulating the local warehouses' fleets. Amazon hastily includes geo-fenced areas (acknowledged, this only works if they don't already have geo-fenced areas).

    I open the floor to my fellow commentards.

    1. Hero Protagonist
      Black Helicopters

      Re: 3 ways to troll with delivery drones...

      If you attempt #3 with the White House, expect to be visited by some nice gentlemen in black suits and sunglasses.

  14. Lotaresco Silver badge

    Incessant whining

    "residents were driven to the point of tears by the incessant whining."

    Given that I have kids and a dog and users/customers I really don't want to add another source of incessant whining to the ones I already have.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Incessant whining

      I came to add my own comment about my kids, but you beat me to it!

  15. Andy Non Silver badge
    Alert

    Considering that a number of people

    either live in flats or have very little in the way of garden space for delivery of items; I wonder how many parcels will end up being delivered to the pavement (for the convenience of thieves) or onto the roof of your house, garage or shed or even up a tree or into a garden pond?

    Also how accurate is the mapping of people's gardens anyway? I've only got to go into my back garden with my android phone and Google maps thinks I'm in the living room of one of the houses in the street behind ours.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I take great comfort in the fact ..

    .. that a lot of them are armed. In addition, as they're dumb enough to vote for Trump (and, astonishingly, may do so again) and hate Bezos for having the gal to publish actual facts via the Washington Post, they will also not feel restrained by any risk that shooting upwards may pose.

    I give those drones weeks at best :)

    /s

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: I take great comfort in the fact ..

      > shooting

      Remember, by some incredible coincidence the government has just reminded people that drones are not to be shot (El Reg article)...

  17. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Remind me....

    The US is the country where everyone owns a high-velocity rifle, isn't it? I foresee a new and very popular hobby. Much more fun than hunting Game wardens, hunters and cows.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Remind me....

      I foresee a new and very popular hobby. Much more fun than hunting Game wardens, hunters and cows.

      Horizon got an ex Royal Marine sniper to try taking out a drone with a .308 rifle in an episode about drones for the BBC, with interesting results (not a chance at 300m, eventually got it at 200m with all movement disabled, against a green hillside background.)

      Clip below:

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07fnfpc

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Remind me....

        Nah, it's the perfect use case for an EMP gun. Verdict: malfunction.

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Remind me....

      Alas, it might be difficult with plain old bullets, but with a trebuchet and a farmyard animal it might be a perfect opportunity to observe the velocity of sheep in air.

  18. First Light Bronze badge

    Hating drones

    Anything flying over my head should have feathers or stretchy wings. My body reacts to drones as a threat -I find myself instinctively shrinking away from them.

    I hate the idea that just walking in public means you have given up all rights to privacy and being left the hell alone.

    1. whitepines Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Hating drones

      just walking in public

      I rather got the impression it's not just in public, it's in your own back garden as well!

  19. Bonz

    Cameras?

    Hope they're not going to be fitted with cameras, people are generally not huge fans of being videoed from the sky

  20. Jay Lenovo
    Devil

    Rabbit Season, no Drone Season

    Based on the fact that commercial blimps frequently need repairs for the bullet holes acquired from the wacko's below....

    ...I guess the Amazon Turkey Shoot is about to begin.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First purchase:

    Amazon, I'd like to order a netgun and a dozen net reloads...

  22. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    WTF?

    5 pound limit?

    I guess you can deliver one book, or a shirt or watch or some consumer electronic device. Maybe a pillow!!

  23. Don The Elder

    Prime them to bankruptcy

    I order things as I need them, maybe 4 times a day - shoelaces, box of candy, $3.75 12 v to USB charger, $6.50 package of M10 bolts (delivered on Sunday!) I've noticed that many companies I've previously seen are no longer there. I learned a lot about insurgency techniques in the '60s. Walmart has a $35-minimum limit and many more "warehouses" (local stores.) We'll see how it plays out the next two depressed years.

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