On Wednesday, Amazon’s VP of Global Public Policy, Paul Misener, appeared at a Congressional hearing before the House of Representative to advocate for the use of drones for delivering packages.
There are two major quotes from the hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee circulating the internet.
The first from Mr. Misener: “We’d like to begin delivering to our customers as soon as it’s approved… We will have (the technology) in place by the time any regulations are ready. We are working very quickly.”
And the second from FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker: “The rule will be in place within a year… Hopefully before June 17, 2016.”
Who has the Power?
While Whitaker’s words are full of hope and revelation, there is little reason to put any stock in them. The FAA has been at odds with Amazon on drones since Jeff Bezos revealed Prime Air on 60 Minutes in 2013 and the administration has missed plenty of deadlines in regards to drone regulations. Despite giving some ground recently, a betting man wouldn’t count on the FAA to show up to play ball on time.
And even if the rules do get published on time, Amazon still has a massive obstacle to face: public perception.
Even with the FAA’s blessing, people’s fears of UAVs could be the damning factor that prevents Prime Air from taking off.
But public perception doesn’t have to be a PR mountain to climb after Amazon gets federal approval to fly – it can be a weapon in the internet giant’s arsenal.
Educating the Masses
The major concerns surrounding drones are the dangers posed by a drone falling out of the sky and the erosion of our right to privacy when flying cameras surround us 24/7. People are afraid of the uncertain ‘what ifs’ of our drone-filled future.
But, just like a dark room becomes less scary when you turn the light on, the practice of drone delivery becomes much less frightening when you understand how it works.
Misener said the technology will be ready in a year.
If that’s true, Amazon should get Bezos back on 60 Minutes for a follow up.
Demonstrate exactly how the Prime Air drones will avoid potentially fatal crashes or refrain from constantly monitoring of the neighborhoods they frequent.
We have seen DJI’s new Matrice 100 and Guidance system so we know sense and avoid is on its way to becoming a perfected feature. We know about NASA’s UTM project, so we know how constant communication between UAVs and their environments can work. But we are a simple website.
If Bezos stood up on national TV again and said “Here’s Prime Air two years later. Here’s how it works. Here’s how it doesn’t crash. We are just about ready, but the FAA is our last obstacle,” the pressure would come from the masses, not the lobbyists.
There will still be skeptics and naysayers, but public fears can often be mitigated by simple, digestible education.
In 2013, Amazon started the conversation about drones. They have remained at the center of it and they are in the best position to rein it in and use it to their advantage.
What do you think? Can Amazon endear Prime Air to the public? Let us know in the comments!
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com