I recently attended a PRSA talk titled, “Send in the Drones – Keeping Journalists out of Harm’s Way,” where Rose Mooney, executive director, Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership gave attendees a full debrief on the what, why and how of drones and their use in journalism.
Being a part of a high-tech PR agency, as well as a consumer, I was interested to learn more about this emerging technology and how its use cases seem to be evolving. Originally designed for military use, the flying copters have made their way into other industries such as farming and will soon be landing into the hands of thousands, and maybe even millions, of Americans. Drones are expected to be one of the hottest gifts this holiday season and top retailers are seeing far greater value in the gadget than being just another item (literally) flying off the shelves. In case you haven’t heard, Walmart recently asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) permission to test drones for making deliveries to customers in its parking lots and to customers’ homes. After testing drones within facility walls, the major retailer wants to follow in Amazon’s footsteps with its drone efforts.
Earlier this year, the FAA began allowing Amazon to test drones for its new delivery system, Amazon Prime Air. This was step one in turning Amazon’s new, futuristic delivery service into a reality. Amazon Prime Air’s goal is “to safely get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less using small unmanned aerial vehicles,” according to the Amazon website. You can view a demo of Amazon Prime Air here. Pretty cool, huh?
Of course, not everyone is completely on board with the idea of drones. According to a recent Fortune article , FAA official Rich Swayze says that as many as one million drones could be sold during this year’s holiday season. These UAVs (unmanned aircraft vehicles) have proven to be dangerous on several occasions in the past. For example, pilots have reported drones flying too close to their aircrafts, and some drones have even obstructed firefighting efforts. The FAA is moving quickly to regulate the use of drones. Educational efforts are also underway by big box electronic retailers like Best Buy who have begun offering e-learning courses on proper use and safety regulations for recreational drones.
But the reservations of the FAA aren’t stopping Amazon. CEO Jeff Bezos says that someday, drones will be “as common as seeing a mail truck.” Furthermore, the company has requested that specific air space be designated for commercial drones so it can do quick deliveries. Although this plan has been in the works for several years, it will take several more to actually be implemented.
In the meantime, we’ll look to the skies to watch this Jetson’s inspired world unfold. Have you seen a drone in action? If so, do you think they are the delivery force of the future? And more importantly, will you be adding a drone to your Christmas list?