It’s a bird; it’s a plane; it’s a box | Local News


Finally!

I’m so tired of waiting a whole day, often two days to get my electric toothbrush, vitamins or weed-trimmer battery delivered to my door.

Before long, we will be getting our Amazon packages within a half hour of ordering.

Nearly a decade ago Amazon founder Jeff Bezos promised drones would be delivering Amazon packages to customers.

The company got approval from the FAA about a year ago and recently cleared a bunch of local hurdles in Lockeford, California, to start delivering drone packages there this year, making the city of 3,500 the first US location to enjoy free drone delivery within 30 minutes .

Walmart, UPS and other companies have been working on similar drone services. Estimates are that Amazon will have about 70,000 drones ready to go by next year.

It’s another “who would of ever thought?” technology moment.

Drone deliveries still face a bunch of hurdles.

An Amazon worker has to come to each yard of people who enroll in the service to see if there is enough clear space for deliveries. {

And they will only be relatively able to deliver small and lighter weight packages.

And while Prime members will get the deliveries for free, it’s costing Amazon a lot for the service, at least initially. They need trained operators to run the drones and the estimated cost of the airlifted package is more than $60. That compares to about $5 to deliver the same package via the US Post Office or UPS.

In fact, Amazon has reportedly spent $2 billion but faced a variety of problems and staff turnover trying to fully launch its drone service.

And, of course, there could be a major airspace congestion if multiple companies are someday delivering millions of drone packages every day across the country.

But as the drones become more autonomous and sophisticated, they could provide some obvious benefits.

In sparsely populated states such as the Dakotas, or in rural areas, they’d make more sense than driving gas-consuming trucks many miles to drop off a package or two. Drones could help relieve the problem of higher fuel prices and a worker shortage by requiring fewer trucks.

It would be a way to get people things they really need, like medicine, quickly.

There’s plenty to not like about Amazon and a whole lot to worry about with its growing dominance in retail, but you have to hand it to the company when it comes to innovation. When Bezos first brought up drone deliveries, every other major player jumped in to commercialize drone package delivery.

Despite some big hurdles, Amazon’s push to commercialize drones will create benefits. It’s forcing Congress and the FAA to reform airspace and drone regulations to accommodate more commercial use of drones.

And while widespread package delivery may or may not be in our future, more commercial use of drones will benefit many parts of the economy. Companies are already using drones to get a variety of data from fields to help farmers make decisions about more effective applying fertilizer or pesticides. Law enforcement and natural disaster managers will benefit from companies that provide them the quick information they need in emergencies.All of that is fine, I guess, but the real concern is that this drone delivery thing works so I can get my Mad Dog and Merrill’s Midwest Grillin’ Gramma Hazel’s Premium rib rub seasoning in a half hour.

Tim Krohn can be contacted at tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com or 507-720-1300.

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