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Should companies start using drones for common tasks, like package delivery?

Displaying poll results.
Absolutely. Can't wait.
  4645 votes / 19%
Sure, as long as it's properly regulated.
  3996 votes / 16%
I don't care either way.
  1319 votes / 5%
I'm a bit uncomfortable with the idea.
  2028 votes / 8%
No way -- they can't do it safely.
  3719 votes / 15%
No way -- they can't do it ethically.
  1277 votes / 5%
Wait, I could get pizza from magical sky robots?
  6579 votes / 27%
23563 total votes.
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  • Don't complain about lack of options. You've got to pick a few when you do multiple choice. Those are the breaks.
  • Feel free to suggest poll ideas if you're feeling creative. I'd strongly suggest reading the past polls first.
  • This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane.
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Should companies start using drones for common tasks, like package delivery?

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  • Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SleazyRidr (1563649) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @06:56PM (#45589751)

    As awesome as a future with robotic delivery drones would be, I can't help but see the many problem with it. I'm sure if it becomes widespread getting killed by a failed drone will happen at least a few times, as will having your stuff stolen by a thief's drone. Not to mention how easy it would be to mount a camera on the delivery drone for easy surveillance. These are all things that come up with every new development, though, so I have faith that we'll find a way around the shortfalls.

    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lagomorpha2 (1376475) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @07:07PM (#45589849)

      getting killed by a failed drone will happen at least a few times

      One of the really depressing things about American media is that hundreds of people could be killed by delivery drivers each year and it wouldn't make local news but the first time one person anywhere gets killed by a delivery drone it's going to be an international headline and the idiot public will be in arms about Amazon's deadly attack drones.

      • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mschuyler (197441) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @07:39PM (#45590117) Homepage Journal

        If I had mod points, you'd get 'em all.

      • false comparison (Score:3, Insightful)

        by globaljustin (574257)

        hundreds of people could be killed by delivery drivers each year and it wouldn't make local news but the first time one person anywhere gets killed by a delivery drone it's going to be an international headline

        Im not claiming that "public perception" of safety issues is proper, but neither is your understanding of it

        The two situations you compare **are not equivalent**

        Delivery trucks are drive live, in real time, but a **human driver** who can be held responsible for any negligence.

        A drone failure has no ac

        • by lagomorpha2 (1376475) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @08:59PM (#45590679)

          People understand that "accidents happen" just by the law of averages...the reason why we can tolerate it is that if someone is negligent, Ex: a Drunk Driver, then they can be held accountable.

          ...and somehow we can't tolerate it is there is no negligent party to hold accountable?

          • yes...

            you don't seem to understand the idea of "tolerance"

            we all know we could die any time we get in a car, but we don't **feel** that way b/c we know that there are myriad safeguards in place, including seatbelts, speed laws, criminal record keeping, rules about who can drive, rules about insurance, air bag regulations...

            plus, and this is the key here for 'drones'... if it is NOT a real accident of mechanical failure, and a person is negligent...they can be *personally* held accountable

            *all those things*

            • I don't know why mechanical failure is any more of a "real" accident than software failure? If the drone is properly designed and maintained, then an accident due to mechanical failure should be less common than mechanical failure in properly maintained aircraft. The design of quad/hex/whatever drones is simpler and has more redundancy than any aircraft designed to carry people. The only accidents outside of human control would be things like bird strikes.

              • by Saethan (2725367)
                Avengers flying fortress aside(which somehow needed -two- engines to fail to go out of control), things aren't pretty when an engine fails on a quadcopter (ask my AR.Drone). 'Course, Amazon is proposing octocopters, which can suffer a number of engine failures without the thing losing control(unless you lose 2 engines on one side). Luckily making an octo is as simple as hooking up two engines to each output of a quad controller, the controller will generally compensate for lifting power differences when a
                • Re:"tolerance" (Score:4, Insightful)

                  by wagnerrp (1305589) on Friday December 06, 2013 @03:14PM (#45620919)
                  It's not that simple. Quad/hex/octo-rotor craft work just fine in the small scale when their inefficiency is made irrelevant by excessive thrust to weight ratio. As you try to scale up to something that can carry worthwhile cargo, that thrust to weight drops, and suddenly you don't have the spare thrust to lose two rotors and still maintain flight. Remember, when you lose one engine, you must lose its opposite to maintain balance. You can still use it for attitude control, but you cannot use it for lift.
        • Ex: a Drunk Driver, then they can be held accountable.

          A drone improperly programmed is not the same.

          Just wait 'till the drones figure out the route to the liquor store

      • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bob_super (3391281) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @08:04PM (#45590333)

        > the first time one person anywhere gets killed by a delivery drone it's going to be an international headline

        The CIA would like you to define "delivery", since they may have some headline examples to provide.

      • Well, Duh! News is called news because it is new. Someone getting killed by a delivery drone would be new. Someone getting killed by a delivery boy in a ground vehicle is not new anymore. As you say, hundreds die every year that way. When the drone's kill rate gets that high, the media will be blasé about that as well.
      • One of the really depressing things about American media is that hundreds of people could be killed by delivery drivers each year and it wouldn't make local news but the first time one person anywhere gets killed by a delivery drone it's going to be an international headline and the idiot public will be in arms about Amazon's deadly attack drones.

        Why place the blame only on the American media? It's broadcast news in general. You said as much yourself since it would become an international headline. Broadcas

        • by Nite_Hawk (1304) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @12:47PM (#45596497) Homepage

          I have two young children. With delivery trucks, I have a certain amount of security. I can make rules like: "no playing in the street, only in the yard". I can feel reasonably confident that the chain of events that would result in a delivery truck or generally any vehicle ending up in my yard on my sleepy little street when my kids are playing are extremely unlikely.

          (flying) Drones inspire much less confidence. They are far more susceptible to nature. There would be huge cost and time incentives to have them do direct line-of-sight flyovers to their destinations. Even if the plan initially wasn't to do this, it'd be pitting public safety vs corporate cost savings. Which one do you think would eventually win? I'd have little confidence that my yard or any outdoor space potentially could be a crash site. instead of worrying about danger on a 2D plane, there would now be a full half sphere to worry about.

          I want to make it clear that I'm not totally against drones for delivery or other uses as there are real cost savings and benefits to society, but there are huge downsides that need to be taken into consideration too. I don't think we are ready just yet.

    • I think the biggest problem will be that drug delivery may become the main use case; and then it'll get regulated to hell.

      Imagine a world where one buys drugs on Silk Road's successor; and instead of addresses delivery is by drone to some GPS coordinate.

      The drones are cheap enough compared to the product, you don't even need to worry about recovery.

  • I'm not bothered by the idea of delivery robots themselves so much as I am by the prospect of making normal the idea that we will be overflown at all times by a panoply of drones at all times. It makes it very hard to pick out the surveillance drones, assuming there will even be a division between the two.

    It's probably inevitable, though. I think the only thing that's going to stop that is if there's a drone-based assassination someday.

    • by reboot246 (623534) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @08:06PM (#45590343) Homepage
      When there are thousands of drones flying around all the time it will be impossible to tell which is a good drone and which is a bad drone. Sure, the air traffic controllers may know, but we won't. Hell, even the air traffic controllers may not be able to tell the difference.

      Imagine a few hundred drones filled with explosives launched from a mile away from the Super Bowl. How are you going to stop them in the short time it would take for them to get to the stadium?

      Imagine a mob hit man doing his job from his living room. Or worse, a government hit man doing the same.

      Imagine businesses spying on each other and on us, even more so than they do now.

      I love technology as much as anyone here, but I don't like the idea of the sky being filled with drones of all kinds.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        When there are thousands of cars driving around all the time it will be impossible to tell which is a good car and which is a bad car. Sure, the police may know, but we won't. Hell, even the police may not be able to tell the difference.

        Imagine a few hundred cars filled with explosives driving from a mile away from the Super Bowl. How are you going to stop them in the short time it would take for them to get to the stadium?

        Get my point?

        I love technology as much as anyone here

        But you love ludditism more.

      • by Ardyvee (2447206)

        I disagree with the Super Bowl idea since you could very easily claim the area around it to be a no-fly zone for drones or everyone unless approved before hand. Then whoever is in charge of checking that the drones flying are authorized has it a lot easier since anything that isn't is a potential threat and should be disabled.

      • by rastos1 (601318)

        it will be impossible to tell which is a good drone and which is a bad drone.

        Bah. That's easy [ietf.org]

      • by gallondr00nk (868673) on Thursday December 05, 2013 @03:25PM (#45611191)

        Imagine a few hundred drones filled with explosives launched from a mile away from the Super Bowl. How are you going to stop them in the short time it would take for them to get to the stadium?

        Imagine a few hundred helium balloons with baskets filled with explosives launched a mile away from the Super Bowl. How will you stop them? What about airplanes? Home made morters? Suicide bombers? Timed bombs? There are a ton of different things that could cause that sort of carnage.

        I'm not sold on drones either, but suggesting that they would usher in an era of easy, quick terrorism strikes me as a slightly paranoid argument.

        There is no society on earth that can prevent someone sufficiently motivated from causing mass carnage. Our error since 9/11 is believing that somehow, with the right mix of intrusion, paranoia and technology, we could stop it all.

        Today more than ever we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

      • by stenvar (2789879)

        Imagine a few hundred drones filled with explosives launched from a mile away from the Super Bowl. How are you going to stop them in the short time it would take for them to get to the stadium?

        How are you going to stop them now? How are you even going to detect them now?

        I assume eventually, we're going to see nets for this sort of thing.

    • I'm bothered because the "panoply of drones" may not have the same regulations that airlines have to go through, before they put stuff over my head which may be occasionally subjected to more gravity than it can handle.

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      come on, think of the fun. put on a mask and go skeet shooting. or try your hand with a crossbow shooting a bolt wrapped with weighted net. your imagination is the limit.

    • I think the only thing that's going to stop that is if there's a drone-based assassination someday.

      There's already no-fly rules around the president and important federal buildings and suchlike. When it comes to drones I should expect the Secret Service to take a very strong shoot first ask later policy regarding unauthorized drones in the space anywhere near to the president or other high ranking politico.

  • by fullmetal55 (698310) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @07:22PM (#45589989)

    http://pvponline.com/comic/2013/12/03/last-minute-shopping [pvponline.com]

    who wants to go huntin'?

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by DaveAtFraud (460127) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @07:31PM (#45590063) Homepage Journal

    I welcome our flying robotic overlords.

    Cheers,
    Dave

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @07:34PM (#45590087) Homepage Journal
    For some guy and a wookie to ambush a drone in Alaska. *Raaaaargh*! *Pew* *BOOM*!
  • "I'm ok with it but it is not economically viable as a replacement"

    I can't help but think the question is worded in the same way as Amazon's whole "60 Minutes" story.

    We've had "remote control" helicopters since the 60s at least.

    "drones" in this context mean mini-copters that are programmed to fly themselves.

    again, "autopilot" is not a new concept at all

    We've had this technology for years. Just because it is marginally cheaper to make, and significantly easier to program doesn't mean that the ***other*** reasons the tech wasn't viable will not still be in play.

    This /. Poll assumes that "drone deliver" is not hype.

    Unfortunately, that's all Amazon's drone delivery is....it's Marketing to advertise their "cutting edgeness"

    • by slinches (1540051)

      We've had this technology for years. Just because it is marginally cheaper to make, and significantly easier to program doesn't mean that the ***other*** reasons the tech wasn't viable will not still be in play.

      You mean the technology to reliably deliver a payload to any specified location within a range of tens of miles, fully autonomously?

      Yeah, we've had some of the precursor technologies for a while, but I don't think we've been able to put them together for all that long, if we even really have that capability now. The closest thing I can think of is military drones, but even those aren't fully autonomous. A person is in the loop to ensure the correct target is identified at the very least and routing at alt

      • You mean the technology to reliably deliver a payload to any specified location within a range of tens of miles, fully autonomously?

        yes that exactly...we've been **theoretically able** to do that for at least 30 years.

        why haven't we???

        **its not economically viable enough to justify the R&D to take it from the drawing board to demo**

        that's all that's in play here...the $cost to take a theoretical capability to a funcitoning *prototype* is dramatically less now...we've had remote control copters and 'auto

        • by slinches (1540051) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @12:48AM (#45591917)

          We haven't had the capability theoretically or otherwise to design small, affordable and relatively capable autonomous vehicles that can navigate arbitrary landscapes with collision avoidance to keep pedestrians safe until now.

          Packaging the necessary computing capability, sensors and navigation equipment to accomplish this is more than just a bit easier than it was 30 yes ago. It wasn't possible or the military would have been using automated surveilance drones then instead of just the last decade or so. If it was just a matter of a bit of R&D why did we have spy satellites and planes like the SR-71 before such simple craft as a Predator drone?

          I'm an aerospace engineer not just some random dolt who jabbers on about flying cars and jet packs. If you really think that these types of autonomous drones didn't exist because there's no economic or strategic value to them, you don't have much of an imagination. Amazon sees them as the ability to deliver things anywhere in a city in minutes without needing to pay for a fleet of trucks and the necessary personnel on standby. The military and (unfortunately) the police and intelligence organizations see them as a way to cheaply monitor an area and gather data to more efficiently direct their forces. If you don't see that, it doesn't really matter. The technology will progress and drag you along with it, even if you don't recognize that it's happening.

    • by Iskender (1040286)

      We've had this technology for years. Just because it is marginally cheaper to make, and significantly easier to program doesn't mean that the ***other*** reasons the tech wasn't viable will not still be in play.

      RC aircraft and civilian drones have recently gained the capability to reliably use electric engines. This is due to brushless engines, excellent lithium batteries and vastly superior computer control.

      Flying electrically in the past would have meant heavy nickel cadmium or *maybe* NiMH cells, powering electricity-hogging older electric motors.

      Your statement is literally correct, just because of programming things will not change. However, other technologies have also developed, changing things completely. B

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      The economically viable part was beyond question a decade ago.

      Nowadays tech has moved on a lot. Not just the programming and programmatic capabilities. We have reliable and accurate GPS receivers for the required navigation. More efficient electric motors, and vastly more efficient batteries (more power, less weight) making these things now capable of actually lifting a significant payload and transporting it over a significant distance (some 16 km or 10 miles iirc - still not far but such a range can easil

  • by Hartree (191324) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @08:28PM (#45590477)

    "Honest officer. It just fell off a drone that flew by!"

  • No Way (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @08:43PM (#45590577)

    Est. 750,000 people have light truck delivery jobs, with this and self driving cars we are looking at a potential huge boost in the number of unemployed.

    • Depends the angle you look at it from. It would be a huge boost in the number of people servicing, manufacturing, designing robots. If it reduces the cost to deliver. That would be a win. Less cars on the road. Another win. Less petrol used. Another win.
      • by mrxak (727974)

        Before long we're going to have to accept that with robotics and automation approaching full-blown AI, our economy needs to transform to something very different, or we're going to end up with most people out of work and only the people who own the robots will have any money at all.

        Eventually, we'll get into some kind of energy credit post-scarcity thing where humans no longer need to labor at all and just have a basic right to a fraction of the total robotic output, but it's going to be a very messy transi

      • by bazorg (911295)

        If your angle is that of the guy in China who produces these things, you should be OK. The drones will not be serviceable at a reasonable cost by anyone in developed countries. The drones will be replaced rather than repaired, just like what happens with so many other gadgets.
        The drivers' jobs will be lost all over the world and the manufacturing jobs will be created in China. If we can all live comfortably without having to have jobs, it's all fine.

    • Re:No Way (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wvmarle (1070040) on Thursday December 05, 2013 @10:00AM (#45607161)

      In a not too far past, we needed about 100 times the people to run the farms, now a harvest is done by a single guy on a single huge machine.

      In a more recent past, we needed about 100 times the people to operate the factories. Now they've been replaced by robots.

      Yet unemployment rates are well below the 90% you might expect considering all those farm hands and factory workers that have been made obsolete.

      Somehow cutting menial jobs and replacing them by machines has done a pretty good job in improving the overall livelihoods of the people in developed countries. It may hurt those delivery drivers in the short run, soon enough they'll move on and find other jobs.

  • will be all the free drones I get.

  • They're just announcing their "plans" to do this as a publicity stunt. I can't see it being practical. Aside from the drones themselves being extremely vulnerable to attacks of all different forms (including attacks from cats living outdoors -- no, I'm not kidding) how many lawsuits do you think they'd get in the first year alone from people being hit by one of these drones? How many drones do you think they'll lose in the first year alone to people hijacking them to steal what they're carrying (or to get t
    • Once again: let's remember that an idea does not have to be completely perfect to be rolled out. Well, a nuclear power plant maybe does, but not this. It would still be an improvement to the risks of human drivers being attacked instead, or the human carriers being hurt in driving accidents or while carrying packages.

      I bet someone will think that they are surveillance drones. I bet someone will try and steal a drone. Those problems can still be ironed out. People will learn that they are not surveillance dr

  • Let us know when they work in the rain

  • by Convector (897502) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:12PM (#45591163)

    They should have used Planet Express!

  • I work for a large municipal utility in the U.S. This last March I had the opportunity to see the Trimble X100 Gatewing mapping drone. Because the current law only limits the sale of drones to private companies, I could have walked out of the meeting with a Drone for my department if I had wanted one. We at the utility discussed putting a radio read receiver on the X100 and using it to read the radio transmitter meters that we use. Currently the technology is still too expensive to be practical, but if us
    • by Saethan (2725367)
      Lots of people [diydrones.com] privately own quad/hexa/octo copters, some of which do some pretty spectacular things autonomously. We even have a club in my town for owners/builders. A guy I work with has a GPS on board that he can use to pre-set coordinates (he can use the same GPS for either his quadcopter or his RC airplane - he actually just takes out the whole ardudrone assembly and transfers it between the two) that the drone will then fly to and return to its home position at the end. I think he said the total co
  • Ideas like this are great - as long as they are in the idea stage. Once you add people to the equation, things go downhill quickly. What's stopping people from shooting thees things down - or even hacking them and taking the payload and the drone? I would imagine some would think it is withing their rights to shoot at thees things if they fly over their property. Hell, some idiots would make a sport out of it..Thees are only a few of the complications that come to mind, I am sure there are other issues.. Wh
  • I can't imagine this actually working, particularly once the drones exit dense urban spaces for the suburbs. The first kid with a BB gun is going to figure out he can get a free drone and a surprise present. Unless the drones are sending back continuous 360 degree spherical video so the perps can be caught, this scheme is just ready for a stealin'.

    • by tgeek (941867)
      What do you mean "exit dense urban spaces"? This sounds like a service designed for the wide open, upper class suburbs where the purchaser wouldn't blink at paying a premium charge for drone delivery - chances of it being practical in an urban setting are virtually nil.
  • Can drones fly in snowstorms?
    Probably not, so it isn't going to improve delivery times in the winter

    • by ScentCone (795499)

      Probably not, so it isn't going to improve delivery times in the winter

      You're right. The whole idea should be completely scrapped.

  • Missing Option. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DarthVain (724186) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @10:14AM (#45594427)

    No. They can't do it realistically.

  • that's what people commenting on reddit been saying. Bezos discloses Amazon's plans and gets lots of exposure just prior to Cyber Monday. However, aero buffs noted he had to make it publically because FAA will need to define regulations for autonomous drones (2015 the earliest). One of these aero people noted, "UAV regs are getting the highest priority. Amazing to me the movement there, when we can't get basic FAR changes made." And from Runway Girl, "Derek Schatz, a cyber security executive, notes that sho
  • It's amazing how many people are excited about delivery drones and consider them to be the 'future' when the reality is that the entire concept is amazingly impractical. Drones are 'aircraft' and that is a transportation category that is much more expensive to operate than 'trucks' or 'trains.' Those delivery drones will need expensive maintenance and repair. They will be very fuel-inefficient in terms of packages delivered per gallon of fuel (and no, they will not be battery-powered or solar-powered.)
  • The time when we have drones delivering our items, which are in turn delivered from the factory by robotic cars. They are in turn manufactured by robots, using resources brought by automatically driven cars from mines/factories also run by robots.

    At this point, Humans will no long be necessary, and I can instruct the robot to shoot me, and replace me with a robot buyer. It will undoubtedly be much more efficient.

  • The technology to autonomously deliver payloads with high accuracy has been around for a long time [wikipedia.org]. I remember years ago people staring wide-eyed when I pointed out that the same technology that delivers bombs could be adapted to deliver more useful things like food and medical supplies. And now goodies from Amazon & Co.

    As a pilot I wonder about the aeronautical issues. The authorities are clearly up in the air on the subject (pun intended... :-) as well. I hope they can find some good answers.

    ...la

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern

 



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