Jul24

It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! No, It’s A Drone!

The first legal drone delivery was carried out last week. Will our skies soon be filled with drone activity?

Are companies like Amazon closing in on a drone delivery service?

In the last couple of years, flying drones have been creeping into the news. Back in 2013 Jeff Bezos, CEO at Amazon, told 60 Minutes that Amazon would soon be using a drone delivery service to deliver packages to customers. Bezos claimed that ‘Amazon Prime Air’ would be rolling out in 2015, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) crushed that dream in February of this year when they put strict regulations on all drone devices in the US.

But even with the FAA stepping in to keep drone deliveries out of American skies for now, we may see drones sooner than previously expected.

The first legal drone delivery in the United States took place last Friday on July 17. The Australian drone startup Flirtey took the glory in the monumental delivery, and we can’t imagine that Amazon was thrilled.

The drone carried 24 medical packages across three three-minute flights from Lonesome Pine Airport, Virginia to a pharmacy near Wise County Fairgrounds. The journey was a success: the 4.5 kg of important cargo was delivered with ease.

This particular flight was deemed ‘research’ into drone delivery, making it an exception to the FAA’s drone regulations. In fact, the FAA supported the project. Its purpose was to showcase how effective a drone can be in carrying out medical deliveries in hard-to-access areas around the United States.

During the flight, Flirtey documented its excitement via Twitter:

There’s no doubting that Friday’s event was historic. So what does that mean for the future of drones in the United States?

Amazon still has sky-high hopes for its Prime Air service. On their website it says the service will take some time, but they will deploy when they have the regulatory support needed to realize their vision. In other words, once they work out the “minor” details with the FAA, Amazon Prime Air will go into full effect.

Check out Amazon’s Prime Air in action in this quick video:

As of now, Amazon has permission from the FAA to test their drone flights. However, there are of course firm regulations. For example, they must keep all flights under 400 feet or below and they can only fly drones during the day. The drone operator must have a valid operator’s certificate, and the drone must be in the operator’s view at all times.

GoPro is another company that has exploited the drone movement. The world’s favorite action-sports camera works perfectly with a flying drone to shoot high definition video. Drones turn amatuer videographers into professionals, allowing them to capture aerial footage that would be otherwise impossible.

In the past, other drones such as the DJI Phantom were created to work alongside GoPro’s versatile cameras. Now, Nick Woodman, CEO of GoPro, has seen the opportunity that drones provide and has announced the first GoPro-made quadcopter (a less threatening word for ‘drone’). The details regarding the GoPro quadcopter are still a bit unclear, but Woodman stated that it will be released sometime in 2016.

There’s no telling how long it will be until our skies are dotted with aerial drones. Many people are against this movement due to issues with privacy and safety, but it’s hard to imagine at this point that drones will be disregarded as another technology fad.

Flirtey showed us that drone delivery is possible. Now it’s only a matter of time before the shoes you purchase online arrive faster than the amount of time it takes to run to the store.

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