Drone delivery is coming, and faster than most think.
Time Magazine disagrees. Time proclaims Here's Why Drone Delivery Won't Be Reality Any Time Soon
Time notes the FAA will not have anything to do with autonomous deliveries other than line-of-sight, but I expect regulations will be worked out soon enough.
Countries like Canada and the UK are ahead of the US in addressing regulations, and history suggests that such pressure and demand from consumers is all it will take to get the US to catch up.
New Drone Prototype
Video of New Drone
Amazon has unveiled a new hybrid delivery drone that can fly both vertically, as a helicopter capable of landing in customers' backyards, and horizontally like a conventional plane. The drone can travel up to 15 miles at high speed.
The hybrid is conceived as the prototype workhorse for Amazon Prime, the futuristic delivery service that aspires to carry purchases to customers within 30 minutes of an order.
The retail giant hopes that safety features built into the vehicle, including "detect and avoid" sensors that Amazon says allow the drone to fly around obstacles, will overcome concerns from government regulators - some of whom have proven resistant to the idea of delivery drones - and customers.
Earlier this year, at an unidentified location in Canada, the Guardian witnessed versions of the hybrid being tested. As a result of reluctance at the US regulator the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow commercial drones to fly beyond line of sight, the drone delivery team, led by Gur Kimchi, had been forced to decamp across the border.
Other governments have been notably more receptive to the idea of semi-autonomous drones. The UK's equivalent of the FAA, the Civil Aviation Authority, has indicated it is open to the idea of delivery drones flying beyond line of sight.
Amazon's new hybrid bird has eight rotors, assembled in pairs, that provide the helicopter-style vertical thrust. In addition there is a larger blade situated at the back of the plane, giving forward horizontal movement.
The helicopter function would be used to take the vehicle up to elevation, and then down to a customer's doorstep or yard. Once the horizontal motor is engaged, the drone would fly at up to 60mph, allowing rapid delivery.
The hybrid aeroplane has long been an aspiration of flight engineers and it already exists in various large-scale vehicles, including the military Osprey. Amazon's prototype is believed to be the first effective hybrid achieved in a small unmanned drone of under 55lb.
Google Seeks Drone Deliveries by 2017
Also consider Google Aims for Drone Deliveries by 2017.
David Vos, the leader for Google's Project Wing, said his company was in talks with the Federal Aviation Administration and other stakeholders about setting up an air traffic control system for drones that would use cellular and internet technology to co-ordinate unmanned aerial vehicle flights at altitudes under 500ft (152m).
"Our goal is to have commercial business up and running in 2017," he told an audience at an air traffic control convention near Washington.
Google and Amazon are among companies that have said they want to use drones for deliveries. The FAA is expected to publish final rules for commercial drone operations early next year.
Vos said a drone registry, which the Obama administration hopes to set in place by 20 December, would be a first step towards a system that could use wireless telecommunications and other technology including cellphone apps to identify drones and keep them clear of other aircraft and controlled airspace.
He said Google would like to see low altitude "Class G" airspace carved out for drones, saying it would keep UAV away from most manned aircraft aside from low-flying helicopters, while enabling drones to fly over highly populated areas.
"There's a lot that can be done in this market space," Vos said.
I side with Vos. Technology marches on. Demand from customers and country-to-country competition ensures the nay-sayers like Time are simply wrong.