SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WGGB/ABC) – If you’re tired of battling crowds on Black Friday, Amazon has a plan to let you avoid all that. With “Amazon Prime Air” you could shop from the comfort of your home, then have a flying drone deliver your gifts right to your doorstep in less than 30 minutes.
CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled Prime Air on CBS’ 60 Minutes saying, “We can carry objects we think up to 5 pounds, which covers 86% of the items we deliver. These generations of vehicles…it could be a 10 mile radius from a fulfillment center.”
Paul Voss is an associate professor of engineering at Smith College. He calls it a brilliant marketing strategy by Amazon on Cyber Monday. He admits, the technology is there, saying, “The idea is that they’d save the last mile, the last half mile that’s expensive for delivery where you have to send people out. Here you’d have a local center and it would say, serve Northampton for example or the greater downtown area, but I wouldn’t expect it tomorrow and if ever.”
Drone technology is the reason the Northampton City Council passed an ordinance last summer to protect the air space up to one thousand feet over the city.
Jeff Napolitano, the director of the American Friends Service Committee says if other cities and towns don’t follow Northampton’s lead, that protection would go away. He adds, “That obviously brings into play the possibility of them tracking what’s going on underneath them, taking pictures of what’s going on underneath them. And just their presence alone is a problem. I mean we don’t necessarily want foreign objects flying through our backyards whether we want to get a package delivered in 30 minutes or less.”
Paul Voss feels we’ll soon see drones used in agriculture and sparsely populated areas to get images and see how crops are doing.
“It’s a far out thing with a lot of dangers associated with flying these things near people in crowded areas, that’s not the right use for them. The right use is in research and agriculture where you’re not right over people and there it’s real safe. If it’s used in the right way where landowners and communities are in control of it, I don’t think it’s scary at all, it’s a huge benefit like any other technology. It’s when we lose control of it and we lose the right to self-govern that it becomes problematic,” Voss explains
Amazon says the drones are ready to go, but they still need approval from the FAA, so it could be a while before this idea gets off the ground, if ever.