Imagining Amazon delivery drones in La JollaAmazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently announced that within four to five years, Amazon packages weighing five pounds or less and being delivered less than 10 miles from a distribution center could be delivered aerially by drones, all within 30 minutes of ordering. Even Bezos conceded that there were definitely kinks to work out with the new vehicles, like making sure they didn’t land on someone’s head.
I was intrigued by the demonstration video, and given that the U.S. Postal Service hasn’t been able to find my house after 66 years, even enthusiastic. But I also think La Jolla would have some unique difficulties with this technology.
First, our community consists of a four-mile strip of land running along the coast where there is already some pretty crowded low-flying air traffic in the form of INS, police, and local military base helicopters, not to mention the occasional golf tournament blimp.
But the real competition for delivery drone air space would, of course, be sea birds. Hundreds of pelicans endlessly cruise the coastal air currents over our homes, never mind the ever-present sea gulls who are always on the lookout for picnic leftovers. How happy would they be with a perceived competitor for pizza crusts? And who would prevail in a gull-drone encounter of the worst kind? Would the drone (with assorted gull parts) come crashing through someone’s roof? Would the affected homeowner at least get to keep the Amazon item?
These are details Amazon may not have thought through. But unlike the birds, at least the drone wouldn’t poop on people’s patios.
Another issue that Amazon may encounter in La Jolla is that the locals are very big on security. Think of all the La Jolla bastions with gated entrances that require delivery people to be buzzed in. How do you buzz in a drone? It had better not even THINK of landing its four little legs inside the gate unannounced.
Even in less fortress-y homes, La Jollans are nothing if not picky about delivery instructions. Amazon would be well advised to seek guidance from the long-suffering newspaper delivery folks or risk the wrath of messages like this: “Your drone dropped my package in the driveway where my wife ran over it with the Lexus. Please re-send asap and this time leave it on the second step of the front porch AWAY from the sprinklers and NOT on the driveway or in the azaleas! I think we made this VERY clear!”
Will the drone be trained to avoid the ubiquitous swimming pools of La Jolla homes? Having to fish your Amazon delivery out of the eight-foot end would be annoying indeed no matter how waterproof those boxes might be.
Then there’s the issue of dogs. I think the first time, Winston would run terrified from it. The second time, recognizing a postal carrier in disguise, he’d be trying to tear its little droney legs off. That drop-off time needs to be two nano-seconds or better.