The thing about news is that no one knows ahead of time where it comes from and that includes the latest news about drones. For a change, this news isn’t about Amazon’s plans to deliver products by drone, which, from my perspective is more about public relations, the stock price, and high tech buzz than it is about the reality of delivering anything by drone.
After all, if drones are really truly the future of package delivery, then where are the UPS, FedEx, and USPS drones?
No, the latest to try commercial drones to deliver product is 7-Eleven. Yes, the same 7-Eleven that sells Slurpees, donuts, sugar water, cold beer, and week old sandwiches. 7-Eleven partnered with Flirtey, a startup company that flirts with drones as delivery vehicles, the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS; whose website consists of a photo of Hoover Dam), and someone who ordered coffee, donuts, candy, a chicken sandwich, and… insert drum roll here… a Slurpee.
Where does Apple fit into all this? More on that in a moment.
Admittedly, commercial drone tests look impressive and I’m sure there are plenty of PowerPoint slides and Excel spreadsheets that promote the gazillions of dollars companies will save by using drones instead of big box trucks to deliver goods, and I don’t want to be the one who dismisses the future before it gets here, but I can’t be the only one to see a problem with commercial drones.
It’s easy to see the value in a military drone which can obliterate terrorists and their hideouts by a pilot that sits comfortably in an air conditioned control room half way around the world. But delivering donuts, sandwiches, coffee, and Slurpees to someone who lives within a mile of the nearest 7-Eleven (and who doesn’t) seems fraught with potential problems.
First, the FAA, that government agency in charge of what flies and what doesn’t and where, says such drones must have an operator and the destination must be within the operator’s line of sight. That kind of regulation must be in the aforementioned Excel spreadsheet somewhere because it would seem to put a damper on the economics of commercial drone delivery.
Where does Apple fit into all this? More on that in a moment. I promise.
Second, the issues that have to be considered to deliver any package of anything via commercial drone are staggering. There’s the needed approval from the FAA, of course. Then the logistics of what can be delivered by drone, and where, and what cannot be delivered by drone. Then, who pilots the drone? How is that cost effective? Or, are we just a Tesla software upgrade away from fully autonomous drone deliveries where a 7-Eleven employee merely types in an address and stuffs said Slurpee and sandwich and donut into a box and off it goes?
What about annoyed neighbors with B-B guns and baseball bats? What about birds who don’t appreciate the competition? Sure, these drones will use precision GPS to navigate to the delivery location, but what happens when the drone goes wonky at the same time a glitch occurs in the GPS coordinates and the device crashes into a car or helicopter or scares the bejesus out of children on a school playground?
Where does Apple fit into all this?
Apple should build a drone; both commercial drones for the enterprise, and personal drones so all of us have the opportunity to deliver whatever to friends wherever, and have the option to take selfie videos of our personal drone following us wherever we go. Who needs to wander through the neighborhood to stalk someone when it can be done via drone and with a video?
Apple sells drones in a number of Apple Stores, but why hasn’t Apple designed, built, and launched its own drone product line? Instead, the company spends untold billions of dollars on stock buybacks that don’t work and dividends that merely blow money out the door when Apple could be spending it on cool and futuristic technology that doesn’t have as much of a future as we might think.
Did I mention the problem with dogs? And what about drone hijacking? So many questions, so little time.