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Sep 5, 2014
Ben Sheehy discusses how both Amazon and Google continue to push forward with plans for one day offering an unmanned delivery service. This service, which would use drones, is not currently permitted by FAA regulations. Google and Amazon have been testing their drones overseas and are looking at whether it is a viable option in the United States.
Google, Amazon Facing Obstacles
With Drone Development
This Thursday, Google revealed its
newest experiment - Project Wing -
which is an experimental program
that features a drone delivery
And Google revealed the project in
its typical dramatic fashion,
releasing a video that featured an
unmanned drone delivering dog
treats in Australia.
The drone, which looked like a
mixture of a plane and a helicopter,
is part of Google's long-term
projects division called Google X.
A major obstacle, however, still
exists for Google and Amazon - the
FAA does not allow drones to be
used for commercial reasons.
On top of that, the governing body
has passed laws specifically
targeting unmanned drone delivery
That’s why Google and Amazon have
taken their testing overseas.
Google ran its test runs in Australia
while Amazon worked out the kinks
over in India.
Amazon’s program is known as
Amazon Prime Air.
Outside of the laws, Google and
Amazon face other challenges.
For starters, could this type of
service even be profitable? Current
drones do not have the capacity to
carry large or heavy objects.
And would consumers trust a drone
to deliver a $500 iPhone? On top of
that, these aircrafts have not been
tested in highly-populated areas.
Also, what type of air-traffic control
is in place for these drones?
Currently, there is none.
This is something that researchers at
NASA are working on at Moffett
Field, located (conveniently) only
four miles from Google’s
headquarters in Mountain View,
This program would not only
monitor traffic but also weather and
wind; since drones are so light, wind
affects them greatly.
But this system would have to go
even further than that.
Due to the low altitudes that drones
are flown at, they would have to be
alert of buildings, power lines, low-flying
And it would get rid of people
altogether, using computers and
algorithms to calculate each drones’
While a drone delivery services
seems a long ways away from
becoming a viable service, many
experts are predicting that drones
will soon have an impact in a variety
of other areas.
Drones are already being used for
crop dusting — soon, drones will
expand further into agriculture.
Dr. Parimal H. Kopardekar, a NASA
principal investigator, said that he
expects drones to soon monitor
assets such as crops or even oil
The Federal Aviation Administration,
however, is still the largest obstacle
for these companies to overcome.
One spokesman from the FAA said
that it is expecting to publish a rule
for small, unmanned aircrafts later
The FAA has always allowed
hobbyists to fly the unmanned
aircrafts - given that they are not
endangering other people, aircrafts
Another thing to consider is
whether people will generally
accept the idea of drones
delivering goods to them.
Will people feel safe around
them? Will people vandalize
But Google plans on moving
forward with its drone
development; in the next year,
Google wants to continue
improving its navigation abilities.
Google has been working on a
“detect and avoid” system using
a system of sensors.
The company said that within the
next decade it expects the
technology to be realistic.