ifg 發表於 2013-12-3 09:50:34

Amazon’s Drone PR Campaign Fills the Sky

亞馬遜玩 spin。。。又大把人云亦云者

By the Editors - Dec 2, 2013, Bloomberg

With characteristic concern for coolness over commercial viability, Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos unveiled a new kind of delivery vehicle Sunday night. It’s called an octocopter, and it will fly all by itself, attuned to GPS coordinates, dropping off goods at customers’ doorsteps for same-day delivery.


Or at least that’s what Bezos, a consummate PR man, told a wide-eyed Charlie Rose on “60 Minutes.” The octocopter unveiling was masterful publicity, properly hyped and well timed for the start of the online holiday shopping season. Yet for all the showmanship, there’s reason to believe that Amazon is on to something. If nothing else, it’s a reminder that expanded use of commercial drones is inevitable -- a prospect that’s equal parts thrilling and terrifying.

Drones have the potential to be a great boon to law enforcement, emergency workers, commuters, weekend campers … the list is almost endless. Businesses are only just beginning to dream up commercial applications. If Amazon’s idea ever becomes reality, its effect on retail could be pervasive and -- to borrow an adjective from another gifted technology salesman -- magical.

No one wants to stand in the way of a future of instant diaper delivery or the already famous pizza drone. But sometimes the best response to a publicity stunt is a reality check.

First, it isn’t clear that the gadget Bezos unveiled, known as Amazon Prime Air, would be legal. A lot depends on the details, but the Federal Aviation Administration published a “roadmap” for regulating drones in November that would seem to rule out autonomous vehicles of the kind Bezos described. Even if the company resolves such issues, don’t expect drone delivery anytime soon: As Bezos indicated, FAA certification for the devices could be many years away.

Second, as one glance at the octocopter in action suggests, drones are potentially hazardous (as is, to be fair, any flying object with rotors, an electric power supply and five pounds of cargo). Most drones lack the ability to automatically “sense and avoid” other objects, such as airplane engines, tall buildings and small children. And never mind the opportunities the octocopter would present to thieves, unscrupulous neighbors and teenagers seeking target practice.

The third big concern is privacy. That’s not an obvious issue with a delivery drone that you’ve basically invited to your home. As a thought experiment, though, imagine a Department of Homeland Security copter flying soundlessly above your neighborhood, equipped with high-resolution cameras, audio recorders and facial-recognition technology.

That’s why getting the right privacy rules in place will be critical. The FAA -- which typically concerns itself with regulating safety -- declined to include detailed privacy or civil-liberties safeguards in its report last month. Many state and local governments are considering their own privacy laws, but that’s a cumbersome and probably ineffective approach to regulating technology that doesn’t recognize borders. Eventually, Congress will need to get much more aggressive on this front.

If, years from now, drones are buzzing about America’s neighborhoods, seamlessly navigating the skies and gently dropping off all of life’s necessities at our doorsteps, give Amazon a lot of credit for dreaming big and dreaming early. And make sure it has your correct address.

ifg 發表於 2013-12-3 09:51:49

Amazon Drone Flights Seen Grounded by Expected U.S. Rules

By Alan Levin and Mary Schlangenstein - Dec 2, 2013

Book and food deliveries by drones, such as those unveiled by Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, may be grounded under rules U.S. regulators are writing.

The Federal Aviation Administration plans to bar operation of unmanned aircraft flying a computerized flight path instead of being controlled by a person, according to an agency document released Nov. 7 outlining plans for integrating the vehicles into the nation’s airways.

Small drones, like the one demonstrated by Bezos on CBS’s “60 Minutes” news program, are expected to have separate rules requiring they be flown within sight of an operator and only in unpopulated areas, Ben Gielow, general counsel of the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International, an Arlington, Virginia-based trade group, said in an interview.

“It’s unclear whether those commercial purposes will be allowed,” Gielow said.

Developing Drone Rules

It may take a decade for the FAA and the unmanned aircraft industry to craft workable rules that ensure the safety and reliability of autonomous drones that deliver pizza and books, John Hansman, an aeronautics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has studied drones, said in an interview.

In the early stages of such delivery systems, costs will be so high that drones will only be practical for tasks such as dispatching emergency medical supplies, Hansman said.

“You have to have appropriate controls,” he said. “You don’t want to create safety problems. But the technology will advance. These things will get extremely reliable.”
Octocoper Deliveries

Autonomous drone operations are “not currently allowed in the United States,” the FAA said today in an e-mailed statement. The agency, which doesn’t yet allow commercial drone use in the U.S., didn’t comment directly on Amazon.

Bezos said on “60 Minutes” that the multirotor devices Amazon calls octocopters may be ready in four or five years. The company is waiting for the FAA to set rules for the devices, he said. While Congress required the FAA to create rules by 2015, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said last month that full integration may take longer.

The company has already reached out to the aviation regulation agency, Mary Osako, a company spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

The drones envisioned by Amazon would be programmed with GPS coordinates that allow them to fly directly to a customer’s door, according to Bezos and a company video posted on Google Inc. (GOOG)’s YouTube.
5-Pound Packages

At least for the foreseeable future, such devices won’t be permitted to fly under FAA rules, according to the agency’s plan for how to regulate unmanned vehicles. A drone operator must have full control or be able to assume control at all times, according to the agency.

“The model featured on ‘60 Minutes’ is autonomous but we have developed several prototypes in our lab,” Osako said.

When asked if that meant the company planned to have a pilot for each drone, Osako said the company “will comply with FAA regulations.”

Amazon wants the vehicles to be capable of delivering packages weighing as much as 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms) within a 10-mile (16-kilometer) radius, Bezos said.

While Atlanta-based United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS), the world’s largest shipping company, has met with drone vendors, it doesn’t anticipate using unmanned aircraft anytime soon, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Alan Gershenhorn said in an interview today.
‘Far Off’

Technologies enabling commercial use of small drones “are pretty far off,” he said. “The demand for same-day use is a niche offering today that has logistical bandwidth constraints associated with it in terms of cost and other factors.”

Carla Boyd, a spokeswoman for Memphis, Tennessee-based FedEx Corp. (FDX), operator of the biggest cargo airline, declined to “speculate about this particular technology.”

FedEx estimates revenue from intra-city delivery of small packages in the U.S. may be as much as $12 billion.

The unmanned aircraft industry believes that technology allowing pizzas or books to be delivered automatically are driving a potential boom in the industry, Gielow said.

“The technology is moving forward rapidly,” he said. “But the regulations and the safety criteria aren’t keeping pace. We are potentially risking our leadership in this technology if we can’t expedite the creation of safety regulations.”

“This is early,” Bezos said in the interview yesterday. “This is still years away.”

ifg 發表於 2013-12-3 18:19:57

Why Drone Delivery Will Be A Nightmare For Law Enforcement

Kashmir Hill, Forbes Staff,
12/02/2013 @ 1:43PM

The beginning of Silk Air Road?

I’d like to see Tesla’s Elon “Hyperloop” Musk and Amazon’s Jeff “Drone Delivery” Bezos face off in a cage match to determine who is the most interesting CEO in tech. Bezos upped his game by going on 60 Minutes Sunday night and revealing a “secret R&D project: ‘Octocopter’ drones that will fly packages directly to your doorstep in 30 minutes.” Yup, an autonomous drone delivery service that would use GPS coordinates to navigate, called Amazon “Prime Air.”

After the shock and awe wore off, many commentators immediately pointed out that this is currently illegal. While the po-po and government entities are allowed to fly drones if they obtain authorization from the FAA, private use of drones is limited to hobbyists, and they have to keep the drones under 400 feet and within their line of sight. But that’s just a temporary hang-up. Congress has ordered the FAA to clear the skyway for commercial use of drones by 2015. So, yes, Amazon will be able to get emergency diapers, toilet paper, or 5-pound gummy bears (depending on the Octocopter’s weight limits) to you in 30 minutes (and Google will be able to launch ‘Drone Map’, and Facebook will be able to launch ‘Drone Stalk’, and on and on).

Law enforcement may already be gritting its teeth over the idea of legal drone delivery though. Being able to send things by drone could be hugely disruptive to the existing mail system: a peer-to-peer postal service that cuts out the USPS and FedEx. That’s fine when Amazon is shipping out books, but what about the kind of deliveries that law enforcement wants to be able to track? The existing postal system is full of surveillance.

When you drop off a package at an automated postal machine, it takes a photo of you and keeps it on file for 30 days. That can help law enforcement figure out who sent a package full of drugs. If online drug bazaar Silk Road had had autonomous drones making its drug deliveries instead of the normal postal service, there would likely be a few less vendors under arrest.

In addition, the postal system logs all mail for law enforcement, scanning the information on the outside of letters and parcels before they are delivered. And if they have a warrant, or if it’s crossing a border, they can open it. That scanning helped law enforcement track ricin-laced letters sent to Michael Bloomberg and President Obama back to a C-level actress in Texas.

Drones are currently technologically limited, at least when we’re talking about the non-weapon enabled variety. The Octocopter-type drone favored by Amazon can usually only fly for about 30 minutes to an hour with a limited distance. Forget about the “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” postman creed. As of now, these drones would likely not stand up to inclement weather. But the technology will surely improve, and they will be able to make longer and more robust journeys. If drones took off (heh) as a private way to send packages and letters over short or long distances, law enforcement would lose an important crime-fighting tool: their surveillance of the mail system. Much like electronic communication has gone “dark” thanks to encryption tools, the postal system could go “dark” thanks to private robot postmen.

This may sound far-fetched, but private, illicit drone deliveries are already happening. Last month, three men and a woman were caught smuggling tobacco into a Georgia prison. They used an Octocopter to do it. Unfortunately for them, their drone wasn’t an autonomous one and they had to crouch in the woods near the prison yard and watch the flight of their copter with binoculars. If it had been an autonomous drone, they may well have gotten away with the crime, and the smugglers wouldn’t be facing up to 20 years in their drone delivery zone for crossing prison guard lines with contraband.

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