Futurist Thomas Frey has predicted that drones will become the most disruptive technology in human history. In a quiet residential neighborhood in Christiansburg, Virginia., one happens to be disrupting the work of two landscapers.
The workers silence their weed eaters, looking to the sky in wonder as the whining drone slows, descends, steadies, then hovers about 23 feet above the front yard of Paul and Susie Sensmeier, two retirees in their eighties.
The drone carries a three-pound plastic package, attached by a cord and a hook. It lowers the package until it softly touches down on the turf. The hook detaches, the line is reeled back in, and the craft zooms off into the horizon at 70 mph.
“There’s been no complaints that I know of from the neighborhood, and there’s quite a few customers that live here,” says Paul, a retired engineer who knows a thing or two about innovations in technology. His son works as an aerospace engineer, and his son-in-law is a researcher at the nearby Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. “It is the wave of the future, and it’s exciting to be a part of the developmental process.”
Alphabet -owned drone delivery spin-out Wing is starting to service U.S. customers, after becoming the first drone delivery company to get the federal go-ahead to do so earlier this year. Wing is working with FedEx Express and Walgreens on this pilot, and their first customers are Michael and Kelly Collver, who will get a “cough and cold pack,” which includes Tylenol, cough drops, facial tissues, Emergen-C and bottled water (do people who have colds need bottled water?).
The Collvers are receiving their package in Christianburg, Va., which is where Wing and Walgreens will run this inaugural pilot of the drone delivery service. Walgreens gets a noteworthy credit in the bargain, becoming the first U.S. retailer to do a store-to-customer doorstep delivery via drone, while FedEx will be the first logistics provider to deliver an e-commerce drone delivery with a separate shipment.
But don’t expect your next package delivery via drone
UPS announced that it has received government approval to operate a “drone airline.” Don’t expect your next package to arrive directly on your doorstep by a drone, though: UPS says it will first use this certification to build a drone delivery network for hospital campuses around the US. UPS said in July that it was seeking permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the network, and today, it got just that.
Specifically, UPS’s drone delivery subsidiary, UPS Flight Forward, was granted a Part 135 Standard certification. Though drones might not seem like aircraft that need to be regulated like commercial airplanes do, the federal government evaluates them on similar footing. Drone delivery companies have to be certified by the FAA just like companies that fly planes.
Your Amazon prime packages are one step closer to being delivered by drones.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a certificate to Amazon Prime Air on Wednesday, allowing the company to operate its MK27 unmanned aircraft for package deliveries, the federal agency said in a statement.
On the same day, Amazon (AMZN) announced it will begin delivering packages to customers by drone “within months” at its artificial intelligence, robotics and space conference re:Mars in Las Vegas. Amazon’s certificate is valid for one year and is eligible for renewal, according to the FAA.
Within a single year, illegal drone sightings in New York City have increased by 68 percent.
When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to establish the state’s first drone-testing corridor, this is probably not what he had in mind. New York City has seen an increase in illegal drone use of 68 percent from the first three quarters of 2016 compared with the same period in 2017.
As airlines pack seats tighter than ever, the tests supposed to show that passengers can get out alive in a crash are woefully out of date. The FAA won’t make the results public, and a court warns there is “a plausible life-and-death safety concern.”
If you were hoping to have your next package delivery sent to you by drone, you may have even longer to wait than you thought. The FAA estimates it will be three years before it has a framework for drone operators to fly the machines without direct human oversight.
In Colorado, 15 of the first 500 FAA exemptions were granted to permit commercial drones to fly. But enabling those and other waiting businesses to spur an estimated $232 million in economic impact — and create more than 1,190 jobs — in Colorado by 2017 hinges on long-delayed rules based on a 1946 U.S. Supreme Court case filed by a poultry farmer.