The Ereading Blog

Drone Delivery: Is It Going to Happen? Probably Not. Here’s Why…

LOGO-1-AmazonAn article on asks whether drone delivery from companies like Amazon and Wal-Mart could really "take off" (see what they did there?).

The answer, in my opinion, is "no”.  And here’s why…

First, let me say that many of the points in the article mirror my own long-time views regarding the viability of drones as a delivery mechanism.  However, because there are so many different points being made in the article, it kind of misses a very fundamental and obvious fact about delivery drones: that they’re just a dumb idea.   

Dumb, that is, for everyone but the big multi-national corporations like Amazon and Wal-Mart who are pushing for the right to jam drones almost (but not quite) literally down our collective throats each and every day.

While the NBC article is interesting and makes a lot of salient points, it misses a very fundamental “user experience” issue that will—I hope—ultimately doom the concept of drone delivery.

Imagine, if you will, a world where you wake up and look out your window, prepared to see the mountains in the background (or the sea, or the desert…you get the idea), and what you see instead is a literal swarm of drones. 

Not a very appealing thought, is it?

Let's break it down a bit differently.  Let's say, for example, that you live in a row house or a townhouse.  The odds are very good that you, or at least one of your neighbors, will elect to buy something from Wal-Mart of Amazon every day.  The odds are just in favor of that, because everyone needs groceries or household supplies or whatever, along with a lot of extra time that they don’t have. 

Now suppose they choose same-day drone delivery because…well, why not? After all, it's available, so why not use it.  After a while the drone comes along and drops off their package (or yours).  Fine, good enough.  But then another one comes by for the people across the street.  And maybe two, or three more show up around the neighborhood as the day wears on.  “Okay,” you think, “it’s a bit annoying, but how bad can it be, really?”

Actually, it can be pretty bad, and that can happen much quicker than you might think if Amazon or Wal-Mart has anything to say about it.

So what about the second day, the second week, the second month?  Before you know it, we're surrounded by drones, and what we thought was convenience very quickly becomes intrusion.  And stopping what we allowed to start happening just may be harder than we ever imagined, because Amazon and Wal-Mart have a lot of money (big surprise). 

And believe me, despite what their marketing folks say, they couldn't care less about you.  To these companies, you (and society as a whole) are profit-points and nothing more.  At least Eread Technologies will be giving back through our Read and Change the World Direct Donation and Select Grants Program that supports a variety of literacy and education causes.  What does Wal-Mart give back?  Or Amazon for that matter?  Effectively nothing, but surprisingly modest savings and a large selection.

No, at the end of the day, I wouldn't call a world full of Amazon and Wal-Mart drones "convenient".  I might call it dystopian, though.  At the very least, I'd call it stupid.  And very, very not worthwhile.  I'm all for reasonable convenience and great customer service, but nobody needs their toilet paper or their replacement cell phone or their new whisk broom or their new whatever-it-is that fast.  Nobody.