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.