Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had a surprise announcement on the 60 Minutes news shows on Monday: his company had begun testing an Amazon Prime delivery service that would use unmanned aerial vehicles (also known as drones) instead of trucks to get consumer goods to customers.
“I know this looks like science fiction, it’s not,” Bezos said in the CBS 60 Minutes segment, adding that “this is early, this is still years away.”
More from GlobalPost: The Drone Wars
According to Bezos, the small flying machine will be able to deliver objects that weigh up to 5 pounds with a 10 mile radius of an Amazon distribution center, which already exist in many urban areas.Items under five pounds make up 86 percent of what Amazon currently sells, Bezos added.
The drones will be autonomous, meaning that they will be programmed to automatically fly to where they are needed, and won't have to be piloted by an operator.
"The hard part here is putting in all the redundancy, all the reliability, all the systems you need to say, ‘Look, this thing can’t land on somebody’s head while they’re walking around their neighborhood," Bezos said on the news segment.
If the idea of Amazon.com drones infiltrating your neighborhood with aerial Christmas gifts terrifies you, relax: you've got time: Amazon.com will face considerable legal obstacles when it comes to fully implementing Amazon Prime Air.
The Federal Aviation Administration is working on implementing commercial drone test sites in the US but has faced considerable backlash from private citizens worried about privacy issues, as the Verge reports.
The FAA has been ordered to figure out a way for commercial drones to co-exist with other airspace in the US by Sept 30 2015, and will have to surmount challenges including enhanced techniques to avoid mid-air collision with other aerial vehicles, pressing privacy concerns, and methods of secure UAV radio communication.
Drones have been prominent in the media in recent years as they become increasingly common in warfare, but their consumer uses have only just begun to be explored.
Innovators in the field are already starting to use unmanned aircraft to get detailed and up-to-date images of cropland for farmers, fight off poachers in African game reserves, and cover protests and conflicts (such as this weekend's Thailand unrest) from a safe and secure vantage point.
Here is the Amazon.com video: