The woman with the Amazon packages for Christmas came rolling into the driveway Saturday, honking the horn — a true practical Santa of daytime.
I carried the packages inside and thought of the recent article I read, how Amazon is tinkering with the idea of making drone deliveries, perhaps one day phasing out the lady in the white pickup with the truck bed cover and many others like her.
I thought of a future Christmas season, a knock at the door, a hovercraft extending a pen, some programmed pleasantry, “Warm day for December, eh?” it says in robot tones. The weather banter shouldn’t be too hard to program, should it? I start to answer with a comment about sinuses and shifting temperatures — as if the drone could relate — but the buzzing machine drops the packages on the porch and rifles skyward, racing to pick up another load.
Actually, these days are already partly here. Drones are very much a part of this world. For instance, we know the military is in full drone mode now. The “war on terror” includes numerous drone strikes in foreign lands. And this is a political landmine of a topic. We have the capability now to engage in assaults from the air without risking our own lives. This is tremendous in one sense. It takes a lot of our troops out of harm’s way. But it’s terribly destructive in another. Since our foreign aim is to “win heart’s and minds” away from terror, then anonymous drone strikes from the air certainly won’t accomplish that. In fact, it’s just a matter of time before we see terrorism carried out that way here, with suicide bombers no longer needed. Our attitudes about drones will surely shift then.
Of course, all of these things are truly a downer talk during Christmas season — sorry for that bummer. That’s not my aim. I’m actually just fascinated — yes, scared, too — but really amazed at what is on the horizon. I think this stuff is going to spread pretty soon out of military circles and into more widespread use. For instance, a friend of mine at work, a younger reporter in Jefferson, showed me his potential drone purchase last week. It was a $70 limited-time deal for a miniature helicopter-style drone with a video camera and a range of 400 feet. Honestly, I nearly bought it right then and there. I’m 41, but I’m not totally free of “kid-in-a-toy-store” impulse buys. I thought of the fun my children and I could have in the yard, watching the thing rise up over the trees and hover overhead, filming us from above. I know I’ll probably give in to buying one of these things eventually, if the prices are low.
But what if we all do? What if “smart drones” are the “smart phones” of 2025? Imagine all the traffic above our homes, Jerry sending his drone to the Golden Pantry for a six-pack of Miller Lite. Think of all the associated issues. Instead of “highway robbery,” could we have “skyway robbery?” Would a drone have the right to be armed, or to stand its ground when threatened with robbery? What about drone collision insurance? Would drone lawsuits flood the courts? Could drones eventually be big enough to carry us upward, replacing our cars? Would drone traffic guidelines be established? If a drone invades your airspace, is it technically on your property, and what right would you have to shoot it down?
As for Christmas, could Santa catch the drone craze, replacing Rudolph and the rest?
Nah, at least there’s that. The old-time sleigh hasn’t changed and won’t. It does just fine hitting all the time zones across the world with packages galore.
Amazon can’t touch that.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
01/03/14 at 08:37 PM
Zach- Yeah my step daughter told me about this story on the news and I said NO WAY then she pulled it up on the internet and I read the story and all I could say is I can't believe they are trying to use drones to ship packages? It looks kinda like a BBQ Grill? It said Amazon.com was going to start testing them for their Prime customers?They say with the drones you can have your packages within 2 hours from the time they are shipped? I said well they had better test and use these things up North and not send one to the South? Because you know if you send one of these things to the South some Crazy Redneck is going to either shoot it full of holes or take it apart?