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PostPosted: 11 Dec 2013, 15:05 
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It's been a while since we posted in here so I figured we could use something to discuss. Apparently this topic has drawn up a lot of controversy, which is why I thought it might be fun to post it here. It's also, for the most part, politics-free, and I dunno about you guys, but I'm a little tired of politics lately, so here's something that's relatively apolitical.

Basically, Amazon wants to start using drones to deliver stuff. Apparently, a large majority of the stuff Amazon ships is under 5lbs, and that's what their drones would be able to carry, and they're thinking this is cost effective (I'm not entirely sure how but I guess the shipping costs would be more than maintenance and development of the drones) and savesignificant time (they're talking wanting to get packages to people within half an hour). For those interested, here is the promo video they shot. They've actually purchased Kiva Systems, which already has robots in Walgreens and Staples, among other warehouses.

This has drawn up controversy for a number of reasons.
1) People saying all drones are evil, ever. Also people complaining that this has gotten more coverage than the United States' use of drones overseas.
2) Using drones in the US right now is actually illegal thanks to FAA regulations, but with time and lobbying, that can (and probably will) be modified. (Their promo video was actually shot somewhere else because of that.) This has led to a discussion of regulation as a means to stifle innovation.
3) Some people are questioning how this could be cost effective.
4) Others are questioning how easy it would be hack these things and steal the contents.
5) Amazon currently uses UPS and FedEx in the United States, so this could be an issue for those companies if this takes off (no pun intended, I swear). Apparently, FedEx at least has wanted to start using drones as well, so they could potentially work together?
6) They already use the drones in their warehouses, I guess, and according to some estimates that's going to save them like 40% of their warehouse costs (and probably put some people out of a job). I doubt that will translate in that much cheaper rates for us, though. Combined with 5, some people are concerned with how this will affect jobs.
7) Ebay was angry about it, apparently, and the CEO said they're focusing on more than "long-term fantasies." I guess he thinks this won't be viable.

So yeah, I guess I wanted to know what you guys thought about this. At first I really didn't see what the big deal was, but after looking up articles in order to make a post here it looks a bit more multifaceted than I had initially imagined. I still don't have an opinion one way or the other, but I guess it would be nice to order a book or video game and have it show up thirty minutes or an hour later.

For those of you not in the US, would you want something like this in your country? Would it be viable?

Related articles:
Amazon Reveals It Wants To Deploy Delivery Drones. No Joke.
Amazon testing delivery by drone, CEO Bezos says
Amazon's Drones are Illegal in the United States
Dones Already Work in Amazon's Warehouses
eBay CEO Sassily Dismisses Amazon’s Drone Idea As ‘Fantasy’



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PostPosted: 11 Dec 2013, 17:30 
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I thought I heard later that the whole thing was a joke of sorts for Cyber Monday, but I (or my source, which I now forget anyway) could be mistaken. But hey, if it's really in the works then I'm all for it. Besides living in the future, it would...no, actually, I just want this because it's cool. The main problems in my eyes, though, would be about safety during landing/delivery. Any time there are large-ish flying mechanical objects descending from the sky and potentially stupid or drunk people in the same location, there's bound to be trouble. As for FAA and airspace, I imagine they'd be at low enough altitude to not be problematic. The other big point of contention would be the usual debate about automation replacing human workers, which I doubt will ever be morally resolved (though economic benefits will skew to one result over the other...).



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PostPosted: 11 Dec 2013, 21:15 
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Forget drunk people--people can be fined for damaged property. What about the lawsuits when the UAVs and family pets get into conflict? Owners are going to get upset about Fido getting hacked by copter blades while Amazon's going to be pissed about the thousands of dollars they're out for a UAV.



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PostPosted: 11 Dec 2013, 21:33 
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My initial impression of this is that it looks really cool but could very easily go incredibly wrong in all kinds of ways. I honestly think I would rather wait a few days to get my package than hope the drone doesn't encounter strong weather or wayward planes or trees or villainous birds or mechanical error or God only knows what. For that matter, it's also relying on the drone's ability to find my address, which humans have so far proven unable to do. And it does seem like it only works in very specific circumstances-item under 5 lbs, bought directly from Amazon instead of Amazon customers, and probably depends on the accessibility of your location as well. So, Awesome But Impractical.


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PostPosted: 12 Dec 2013, 04:24 
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I think 'awesome but impractical' is probably the most likely description for such a system in the UK. My initial thought as I read the post was, "It sounds pretty cool, and I basically like the idea, but what about the impact on delivery workers' jobs?" Reading the responses made me consider all the other complications (the family pets issue is one that I hadn't thought of but is a definite likelihood). It might work if the drones are only used for express delivery of orders within an hour or so, so that the recipient can wait in and look out for the drone's arrival, but otherwise I think there would be too many problems to overcome. What strikes me as the chief disadvantage regarding the actual delivery stage in the UK is that currently Amazon uses Royal Mail for its small packages. The postman puts them through the letter flap, usually in the front door. If they're too big to fit, he rings the bell and hands the package over personally, and if there's no-one in, he writes out a card, giving details of the time and delivery type, and giving a time from which it can be collected from the local sorting office. I presume a drone could be programmed to identify a letter flap (though the design shown in one of those articles didn't look like it could do anything other than drop a parcel on the ground), but what about if the house has a box on the wall rather than a flap in the door? And how easily could it identify a door bell, which can be in all sorts of places and various different styles. And if the house doesn't have a bell, would it be able to use a door knocker? Then there are apartment blocks where you have to select the right door bell, or even use an intercom at the front door. And for all the recipients who will inevitably be out at the time of delivery, would Royal Mail really be happy to deal with hundreds of Amazon drones wanting to drop off packages at their sorting offices? That system currently works because the postmen return there at the end of their round anyway. I suspect that Amazon would have their drones return undelivered packages to their depot, and then the customer would have to make further arrangements for delivery, which would be inconvenient. So yeah, I could see the system possibly being helpful as an add-on to the current system for super-express delivery within a couple of hours and the customer can stay in and wait for it, or if a specific delivery time can be requested at the time of ordering, but otherwise I think there are too many complications.



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PostPosted: 12 Dec 2013, 12:01 
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Yeah, Dino brings up another good point-if the drones can't identify when someone is not home (and how would they? that's AI I didn't know we had yet), do they just leave the stuff there? Way to get all your packages stolen. Or rained on, or chewed by wild animals.

And just imagine the consequences of this.


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PostPosted: 12 Dec 2013, 12:12 
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To be fair, in my experience in several areas around the US, postal workers often leave packages on people's doorsteps unless they require signatures or it's written that the contents are highly valuable, so that much wouldn't really be new. There could definitely be issues with apartment complexes and similar conditions, though, but that's also not new. This is more true for USPS than UPS or FedEx but I've had UPS people leave stuff on my door (in Indiana) as recently as this past week, regardless of whether I was clearly home or not. A few weeks ago in Chicago I had USPS say they left me a notice because I wasn't home, but I checked with my apartment complex mailroom and they didn't have one, so when I rescheduled the delivery I told them no one got a note and lo and behold they didn't need my signature anymore and just dropped it off. I'm sure that depends on where you live though, which is something the drones would not know.

What would make most sense to me would be that you would be able to choose how quickly you have your stuff shipped, which is what you do now. You can pick 1, 2, or 3-5 day shipping currently, so it would completely make sense to me that "30 minute shipping" or whatever would be part of that option.



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PostPosted: 16 Dec 2013, 12:09 
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I'm really interested in this tech. Partially because it's really cool, but also because it does bring us back to a very, very important point: If there are no jobs left to be automated, what point is there to working, and so what point is there to money aside from some abstract 'favour' system and the maintenance of the banks? But that's probably a discussion for another topic, and I'm far too tired to contribute much to it anywho.

For now, for those who haven't seen these floating about the 'net, I came across theses on the book of the face a couple of weeks ago (I think) and figured peeps might find them interesting:
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I know that the first one is fake, this QuantumPirate dude making a joke that was pretty amusing. The second one I really don't know about, but it's still pretty amusing regardless xD


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PostPosted: 16 Dec 2013, 15:31 
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Yeah, they're both fake, but that is pretty amusing. I do wonder what their actual missed package notes will look like.



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PostPosted: 08 Mar 2014, 03:10 
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Just food for thought: A brewery in Ostfrisland; Germany is using drones already for delivering kegs of beer in rural regions.


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PostPosted: 08 Mar 2014, 06:37 
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Interesting. It'd also be interesting to hear how they've got on at some future point and see what, if any, unforeseen complications they've encountered.



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PostPosted: 08 Mar 2014, 13:37 
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Either way, I've never heard of anything more glorious than robots and beer. The Germans have done it again.



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PostPosted: 09 Mar 2014, 03:17 
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Well to be honest, I did not think very much of the technical details and issues when I saw it.

I was more like "How awesome would it be to tell your mates 'Imma gonna order a drone of beer'"...


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PostPosted: 09 Mar 2014, 12:03 
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So do you know how Things actually ARE going for them?



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PostPosted: 19 Mar 2014, 22:27 
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Quote:
Yeah, Dino brings up another good point-if the drones can't identify when someone is not home (and how would they? that's AI I didn't know we had yet), do they just leave the stuff there? Way to get all your packages stolen. Or rained on, or chewed by wild animals.

And just imagine the consequences of this.


Not sure what alternate time line you exist in, but in mine, UPS and FED EX guys rarely check to see if anyone is home. Even when it comes to valuable stuff. I have had laptops left on my front door. My 80 year old neighbor gets hundreds of dollars with of meds left right outside her doorstep every month. Did I mention that I live in an apartment(though technically they are condos) complex? I think you are only made to sign for something when it is insured or protected in some way.



Quote:
Forget drunk people--people can be fined for damaged property. What about the lawsuits when the UAVs and family pets get into conflict? Owners are going to get upset about Fido getting hacked by copter blades while Amazon's going to be pissed about the thousands of dollars they're out for a UAV.


The same argument could be made for fed ex trucks, or even the delivery person themselves. Pets can attack the UPS guy and a UPS truck can runover a dog. Pretty sure that issues like this have been thought of, and that Amazon has a way of working around this.


Quote:
My initial impression of this is that it looks really cool but could very easily go incredibly wrong in all kinds of ways. I honestly think I would rather wait a few days to get my package than hope the drone doesn't encounter strong weather or wayward planes or trees or villainous birds or mechanical error or God only knows what. For that matter, it's also relying on the drone's ability to find my address, which humans have so far proven unable to do. And it does seem like it only works in very specific circumstances-item under 5 lbs, bought directly from Amazon instead of Amazon customers, and probably depends on the accessibility of your location as well. So, Awesome But Impractical.


You would not be held liable for a lost drone or its contents. A good amount of products from Amazon both meet the weight limit, and would be eligible. Just look at what qualifies for Amazon Prime. Pretty sure the same things would qualify for drone delivery.


Yeah. I am 100% for this. It is progress. We don't shy away from technology just because of jobs that might get lost. Imagine if we always acted in favor of some minority job position over technological advancement. We would not have any of those great self checkout lines in our grocery stores. I don't know about you guys, but I am never waiting in a line again.

One of the (few) great things about capitalism. If the drone delivery service is a bust, people wont use it, and Amazon will probably lose millions of dollars which it had invested into the system, and it will go away until the problems are fixed.


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