Amazon’s plans for a Prime Air drone delivery service captured the imagination of people who want their packages delivered by small, flying robots, but drone entrepreneur Raphael Pirker is skeptical that they’ll become a reality, at least in the near future.
Pirker, the CEO of drone manufacturer TBS Avionics, told the Wall Street Journal that small drones like the ones Amazon plans to use “would need to be improved by magnitudes of what we have right now to have this being even remotely a possibility.”
In order to make residential deliveries, drones will have to navigate a number of obstacles, including trees, power lines, cars and pets, and Pirker says that’s just too much for machines that need to be as light as possible. That said, he’s happy with Amazon’s announcement, because it showed the public that drones are “not just for spying or bombing people.”
His statements echo sentiments from 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson, who said earlier this year that drone delivery is “the last thing you want to do.”
Pirker is best known for successfully challenging the FAA’s ban on commercial drone usage. The agency fined him $10,000 for shooting a video for the University of Virginia using a 5-pound styrofoam model airplane, alleging that he was flying without a license and was flying recklessly. Pirker argued that the FAA didn’t have any binding rules governing drone flight, and an administrative law judge for the National Transportation Safety Board agreed with him.
While his fight against the FAA garnered him fame, Pirker said that he thinks some restrictions on drone use would be prudent. He disagreed with the idea that drone pilots need to be held to the same licensing standards that govern airplane pilots, but said that some licensing would help avoid accidents. In addition, he thinks that any regulation should take the weight of a drone into account, because “The amount of damage you can do to a person or to a property grows exponentially with weight.”