Chris Anderson
Chris Anderson

SAN FRANCISCO – While he was thrilled to show off his company’s new drones at the Launch Festival in San Francisco today, 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson is skeptical about Amazon’s plan pull off home delivery with drones.

“People get very excited about the notion of drone delivery, but that’s the last thing you want to do,” he said.

According to Anderson, both FAA regulations and common sense make drone delivery a difficult proposition. While the idea of autonomous copters flying around seems convenient for delivery, there are significant safety risks when flying drones over residential areas. He’s concerned about a drone potentially crashing into people, homes or other objects while in the process of making a delivery. With multiple whirling blades, a malfunctioning Amazon drone could cause a lot of damage to people or property.

That’s coming from someone who’s a true believer in the potential of drones. Anderson left his position as the Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine to create 3D Robotics, aiming to bring drones to more people. Even so, he was reticent to fly a drone that he brought to the conference over the heads of the audience, for fear of an accident.

While 3D Robotics’s latest drones are able to fly along a set path drawn over a map, the company hasn’t yet ironed out how to ensure the ‘copters don’t collide into obstacles along their path. That’s ultimately one of the greatest challenges Amazon has to solve before its Prime Air program can take flight, since a single major injury could be enough to ground Amazon’s drones.

That may be why Jeff Bezos hedged on when the company would be ready to fly in his 60 Minutes interview with Charlie Rose. While Amazon’s official FAQ said that the company would be ready for drone delivery in 2015, Bezos thinks that PrimeAir might be closer to four or five years out.

Comments

  • Mark Jessup

    Yeah, I agree with Chris Anderson on this one. It doesn’t even matter if the tech itself ran perfectly, there is a big gap between achievable and publicly accepted, especially where technology is concerned. Google may someday offer a fully automated car, but it’ll be many years before that’s the norm. And flying drones, with the aforementioned whirling blades, alighting on your lawn while your kids play nearby…that’s going to take awhile, too. And it only takes one time for some a-hole to bring one down intentionally, with all attendant collateral damage, for a serious lawsuit. I’m all for privatized space travel, colonizing Mars, stem cell research —hell, I’d clone myself if I could. But *drones* delivering my dairy products in the morning? Call me old-fashioned.

    • Carlos

      I wonder if that is what they said about delivering mail in automobiles, seems dangerous, the ups guy comes in a truck and runs over my dog…lol…how many trafic accidents Ups and Fedex trucks get in a year? Sure a few drones migth crash and even someone might get hurt, but the same can be said of airplanes. Thats what the court are here for. Cant stop progress, drones are the future!

  • Florent Crivello

    Given the drones would fly at buildings height, there are very few chances they would ever run into someone – unless the guy is himself riding a drone.

    Moreover, including some proximity sensors into the drones that would make them stop as soon as they get too close of something is a pretty cheap way to drastically reduce this already very little risk.

    Finally, saying drones won’t work because they may run into people is like saying “I’m skeptical about this ‘motorized vehicles’ idea; What if one of them ran into someone?”. A drone hitting someone is a far smaller deal than a car doing so, and still, there are over a billion cars travelling over the world, with nobody questioning wether we should drop the entire concept.

  • Carlos

    Take this quote from the article: “He’s concerned about a drone potentially crashing into people, homes or other objects while in the process of making a delivery. With multiple whirling blades, a malfunctioning Amazon drone could cause a lot of damage to people or property.”

    Now replace the word “drone” with “UPS delivery guy”, I sincerely believe an automated drone would be safer than a man driving a truck in the neighborhood where kids play to deliver a 4 pound package, not to mention the waste of gasoline.

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