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Amazon set to launch drone deliveries in 2015

  • Amazon

Just days after a BBC investigation exposed harsh working conditions in Amazon warehouses and as German employees continued to stage a series of strikes, Amazon have revealed plans to not only treat their workers like drones, but to actually employ drones.

Jeff Bezos, chief executive of the world’s largest online retailer told US current affairs program 60 Minutes that Amazon were testing unmanned drones to deliver goods direct to customers doorsteps. The ‘Octocopters’, could deliver packages weighing up to 2.3kg to customers within 30 minutes of them placing the order, he said.

Bezos demonstrated a working prototype of the eight-rotor helicopter drone. The unmanned craft has a claw at the bottom that allows it to collect packages at Amazon's ‘fulfilment centres’ (an Orwellian name if ever there was one) and fly off to homes across America.

"I know this looks like science fiction, but it's not," Mr Bezos told interviewer Charlie Rose

"We can do half-hour delivery... and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds (2.3kg), which covers 86% of the items that we deliver."

“From a technology point of view, we'll be ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place”

And he may well sound confident about regulations accommodating the new service. In 2012 Congress ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to open up airspace to commercial drone flight – an area that has been heavily restricted until now. 1400 permits have thus far been issued for police and government use, with a new swathe of commercial permits expected in 2015. Europe looks to be close behind, with commercial drones set to be licensed by 2016.

Why then does this news feel less like a great leap forward for consumer convenience and more like a worrying social development? With Edward Snowden’s revelations still ringing in our collective consciousness, are we really ready for a world where governments and corporations have unfettered access to the air above us? The potential for privacy abuses is quite staggering. How would we feel about a drone taking photos through our windows as it delivers so Amazon can target their advertising according to what those photos show?

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