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The majority of Americans are wrong about delivery drones

Look! Up in the sky! It's nothing!


Aaron Sankin


Posted on Feb 23, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 11:37 am CDT

It turns out that the majority of Americans are on the same page as Amazon when it comes to drones. 

In late 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told 60 Minutes that the e-commerce giant was developing a fleet of drones to deliver packages. A little over two years later, Americans have latched onto the idea that drones are the future of delivery. 

In a survey of 1,400 American adults, public relations firm Walker Sands Communications found that two-thirds predicted that they’d begin receiving packages by drones within the next five years.

Americans aren’t just resigned to their drone commerce-filled future, they’re actually pretty excited about it. The survey found that four out of five people indicated that ultra-fast drone package delivery (we’re talking within an hour) would make them more likely to buy items from an online retailer, and 80 percent were willing to pay extra for the option. About half of the survey-takers said they would pay at least $5 for the privilege of utilizing a speedy robotic delivery man.

That drone delivery is so popular shows that Americans haven’t entirely thought through how they feel about drones. A Pew survey from last year showed that 63 percent of Americans believed that any change in the law that would make drones more prevalent in the skies over their heads would be a change for the worse.

Luckily for Americans’ not having to think too hard about the consequences of things, a recent proposal by the FAA has the potential to ground any drone delivery programs for a good, long while.

After spending the better part of a decade dragging its heels, the agency finally released a draft set of rules for the commercial use of drones weighing under 55 pounds. The rules limit fights to daylight hours, under 100 miles per hours, and below an altitude of 500 feet. Most importantly, the rules also prohibited the vehicles form being flown outside of the line of sight of the pilot and over the heads of anyone other than its operator.

These last set of rules, in place to prevent anyone from getting clocked in the head with a drone, which can do some serious damage, effectively eliminate any prospects of drone deliveries. 

If an Amazon employee has to be standing right next to your house to pilot a drone carrying your freshly ordered package of tube socks to your front door, the company is undoubtedly going to stick to its current ground-based system. Americans may think they’re going to get drone deliveries within the next five years, but the smart money bets against it.

Unless, of course, we’re talking about China. Chinese online retail giant Alibaba started testing its own drone delivery system to for packages of ginger tea to locations with a one hour radius of its distribution centers in Beijing, Shanghai Guangzhou earlier this month.

Illustration by Max Fleishman

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*First Published: Feb 23, 2015, 3:32 pm CST