View Mobile Site

Delivery drones: Get ready for high tech locust

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED December 11, 2013 12:27 a.m.

The time may come when we refer to the good old days as when leaf blowers and cranked up music at parties along with buzzing flies were the most annoying sounds in our neighborhoods.

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezo wants to unleash drone delivery of items weighing five pounds or less. Even if a commercial delivery drone never reaches the friendly skies, the timing of his Prime Air delivery system announcement on “60 Minutes” got the world talking about Amazon.com right at the start of the peak consumer season. Basically he got a big buzz without ever having to spend millions of dollars to buzz your neighborhood.

But what if Amazon.com or other retailers such as Best Buy decide to run with commercial delivery drones?

Besides saying a lot about our lack of patience in wanting everything now including the delivery of toothpaste, the concept screams volumes of the difference between the real world and the place inhabited by those who’ve written a bit too much code in their life.

There is the pesky little detail of air space even at 100 feet or less. Besides issues of government regulations do we really want a world where a hundred or so delivery drones from various concerns could be going down a typical neighborhood street in a day? I’m sure technology could be created to avoid collisions and such. But do we really want the visual and audio intrusions?

Given the propensity of high tech firms to spy on us as they do now when we access websites, Tweet, or do virtually any transaction with their devices or software do we really want a drone that could easily be equipped with video cameras to swoop up to our doorstep?

Google Earth is so passé. You could get live feeds of what is going on outside the dwellings and in the yards of every eBay customer that buys garden gnomes. That would be a wonderful convenience for thieves casing places to rob. They could use high tech to decide the best places to hit assuming correctly that those who employ drone delivery are probably a bit better off and are likely to have pricey electronics and high tech stuff they can steal.

Criminals not so high tech inclined could simply follow drones, wait for them to swoop in to drop their payload and then move in quickly and steal the item before the buyer can even open their door.

It’s safe to say that to justify drone delivery the items they carry won’t exactly be cheap.

Then there is the possibility of enterprising criminals using weapons to knock drones out of the sky.

High tech does indeed expand the possibilities.

Of course, everyone’s favorite federal agency — the National Security Administration — could use the proliferation of drones delivering commercial items to put up their own drones to buzz neighborhoods without causing any alarm or suspicion.

Given how high tech things are, it is conceivable they could be equipped with devices that allow them to pick up conversations within 100 yards. That way the NSA can monitor our web traffic, emails, cell calls, landline calls, and even conversations in our own home.

Come to think of it given how Google has used technology to “drag net” info from wireless users who weren’t even accessing their website while driving up and down streets, who is to say Amazon.com and others using commercial drones wouldn’t do what the NSA would do?

If such an invasion of privacy were to occur and then be uncovered Google would just dismiss it as good marketing. After all they are just trying to find out what you’re talking about so they can better prepare advertisers or those selling products to target your specific consumer needs. It’s about making your life more convenient and transparent whether you like it or not.

There are of course liability issues. If the sound of gas being burned on a hot air balloon can spook cattle far below what can a drone do? It begs an even bigger question — how much privacy can you expect?

Amazon.com obviously wouldn’t follow street patterns. A drone would take shortcuts over farmland, businesses, and other people’s yards.

The Bezos of the world are also no Henry Ford.

The man who gets credit for harnessing technology to bring driving to the masses understood people had to work to earn money to buy the cars he produced. And those jobs — including the ones he provided — had to pay enough to make that possible.

The Amazon.com strategy is to keep cutting jobs. Get rid of sorters in their distribution centers. Eliminate the need for delivery people. And then pay the human drones left minimum wage while those at the top pocket tens of millions of dollars every year.

The Luddites were on to something.

Technology has its place. But when technology drives everything it can drastically alter the quality of life and not necessarily in a good way.

A prime example is how much less we have to use our bodies to do daily tasks. It is reflected over the past 50 years in a wealth of statistics that show we are fatter and less healthy than previous generations although we do live longer.

It sounds great to have drones to satisfy our needs instantly and to reduce costs.

But ultimately those reduced costs will mean less of us can afford to have our basic needs met. That may not be a bad thing for the high tech firms and the NSA as our survival and not privacy issues would then be our No. 1 concern.



This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...