Monday, December 02, 2013

Droning Misconceptions

When Amazon announced their drone delivery experiments, my Twitter stream filled with people who made incredibly misinformed comments. So, uh, I made this FAQ about basic stuff so that nobody ever has to make uninformed judgments ever again. There, that's that problem solved.

I guess it's not a FAQ so much as a FMUSS (Frequently Made Uninformed Snarky Statement).

Q) Amazon is doing drone delivery!

A) Well, technically they're looking into Quad Copter Remote Operated Vehicle delivery systems, which is technically not... well, okay, the word "drone" is damaged beyond resurrection, so sure, they're drones.

It's uncertain that the technology exists to do this just yet. Personally, I don't think it's ready. But, yes, Amazon's apparently looking into it.

Q) They should just pay people to deliver!

A) This is wrong in two ways. First off, they are paying people. These are not fully automated, they're semi-automated ROVs. An operator can probably fly several at once, but they're still going to have to pay pilots. And mechanics. Fucking tons of mechanics.

Secondly, humans literally cannot deliver in this manner. There are no humans that can fly through the air to deliver a single package. The closest we might be able to do is motorcycle deliveries, which are dangerous and slow in comparison.

Q) They're going to fire all their delivery staff!

A) This is a short-range small-parcel delivery service. Quad copters cannot go far, nor can they carry heavy loads. This cannot replace their ordinary shipping.

Eventually, it might. Automated/ROV trucks are on the horizon. You can get upset then.

Q) Free Amazon stuff if you're a good shot, HUR HUR HUR

A) This was the one that made me quit Twitter for the night. That anyone retweeted it boggles my mind, because it's so badly thought out it makes no sense.

First off, these are deliveries in an urban area. Are you planning to fire a rifle in the middle of a city? HUR HUR HUR

Second off, these are short-range deliveries, meaning that another drone will be by to see what happened to the first drone before the cops could even arrive.

Third off, they have ground-facing cameras, and will almost certainly be able to see muzzle flashes. Even if you took one down, they'd probably know exactly where you shot from.

Fourth off, these are unscheduled deliveries. I'm unsure how you'd be ready to shoot one.

Fifth off, they have on-board GPS and constantly-streaming audio video. Unless you knock those systems off-line, they'll certainly be able to see anyone who comes by to visit their downed drone.

Sixth off, if you want to be a moronic criminal, just rob houses. You're less likely to get caught and the payoff is far greater.

Q) Amazon is evil! They shouldn't do this!

A) Yup, they are evil. But, uh, that has nothing to do with using drones.

If ROV tech is ready to hit prime time, then it's going to hit prime time. Amazon might be the first adopter, but it hardly matters who does it first because everyone will follow. It's like smart phones - it took a while for the technology to arrive, but when it did, smart phones became dominant in a flash.

Personally, I don't think the tech is ready, yet. I think the tech is only at the level of murdering civilians at $10,000,000 a hit, which is not Amazon's typical business model. But it'll be interesting to see Amazon's experiments.

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