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Real News or Just Another Publicity Stunt? A Look at Amazon’s Drone Program

Image via Flickr by Alan Cleaver

Nov. 29, 2013 was a busy news day. When news analysts weren’t weighing in (and duking it out) over Obamacare, reporters across the nation were running spots on long shopping lines, customers who camped for days in frigid temperatures to get the best deals, and even a few skirmishes over the best merchandise in brick and mortar stores. How can a poor little online shopping site compete in the fray? Well, Amazon captured a fair share of media attention with a news story of its own, claiming they’re working on a drone aircraft which could make unmanned deliveries within 30 minutes of order placement to homes sometime in the future.

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The Timing of the Announcement

Image via Flickr by Powellizer

Nothing about this story screams, “publicity stunt,” louder than the day chosen for the announcement. After all, this drone program is years away from reality, and there are reasons to believe the entire operation is impractical and impossible upon conception. What was Amazon’s real reason for the Black Friday announcement?

Brick and mortar stores aren’t bringing in the holiday shoppers like they used to. Between the sluggish economy and the convenience of online shopping, most shoppers are opting for online gift ordering unless they just want the experience of camping out in freezing weather, getting into fistfights over a discounted Blu-Ray, and possibly getting to be on the evening news.

The Reality of U.S. Unmanned Aircraft Regulations

The laws governing unmanned flying machines in the United States are relatively strict and unyielding. In fact, the laws are so tight that Amazon had to film their promotional video for the announcement elsewhere. That’s right, it wasn’t even legal to film the promo here, so there are some obvious problems when it comes to allowing these craft to run at large in heavily populated urban environments, especially with lots of glass windows to break, traffic signals to knock over, and birds to spook. The entire program may be impossible to implement legally, even if it works in practice, which is also doubtful.

Image via Flickr by vaugeonthehow

The Practicality of Unmanned Flying Delivery Drones

Aside from the legal problems, the drones have some practical issues to overcome. For instance, how is an unmanned craft going to deliver packages to an apartment in a six-story walk up in Manhattan? Delivery drivers can park on the street and walk up; drones can’t. There are many such considerations that would make drone deliveries impractical or even impossible when actually put into practice. Navigating in nasty weather, difficult urban terrain, and drones’ inability to ring up to your apartment are just a few obstacles to consider.

What You Can Take from Amazon’s Publicity Stunt

Image via Flickr by melenita2012

Amazon may have pulled our legs a little in favor of some experimental fun on Black Friday. What’s the point? The point is that while shoppers booted up computers, tablets, and smartphones to shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Amazon was on their minds. You heard their name on the TV and radio, and likely saw them in more than a few online news posts or blogs. You paid more attention, because these were real news stories, not just advertisements that you’ve learned to tune out. It was an effective marketing technique, but don’t look for your new smartphone to arrive at your via an unmanned flying craft anytime soon. [/show_to]


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