After whining publicly and doing the corporate equivalent of taking its toys to someone else’s house, Amazon has managed to wrest broad permissions from the FAA to test its drones in the United States. The good news here is that America has loosened up its restrictions and allowed for an economic powerhouse to more quickly innovate in the tech space. The bad news is that Amazon has demonstrated that it can affect US policy through the sheer force of its economic powers.
A post on TechCrunch Friday offers the specifics, specifically that the FAA has granted Amazon an exemption (which it first sought in July 2014) from its usual drone testing rules and regulations. Amazon is allowed to test any new drones it likes so long as it doesn’t weigh more than 55 pounds, that it doesn’t exceed speeds of 100 miles per hour, and that it not fly higher than 400 feet into the air. Other than that, the sky’s the limit (well, okay, 400 feet is the limit, but you know what I mean, shut up).
The news also means it’s pretty likely that Amazon will be able to roll out the Amazon Prime Air service it showed off to 60 Minutes oh-so-long ago. Again, that’s cool for innovation and for consumers who want their stuff as quickly as possible. That’s not so cool for the human beings who make a living driving delivery trucks and bringing packages to your door.
I’m all for innovation and advancements. But drone-delivered packages? Not only is it kind of creepy, but it’s extremely easy to see how an advancement like that could affect the jobs of many, many people We already know that Amazon has been working hard at automating its warehouses, which would end the need for human workers who do that job now. If Amazon can adequately roll out Amazon Prime Air, how long will it be until delivery trucks and the USPS mail carriers are phased out?
And that’s not all, either. Just a couple weeks ago, Amazon unveiled the Dash Button, AKA the “I never have to leave the house again” button. It’s a brilliant bit of business, in that it allows consumers to literally hit a button that’s hanging in their house and order new supplies. That, too, will likely have a deleterious effect on local businesses should it take off. Given Amazon’s success record (Fire Phone notwithstanding), it sure does look like Amazon is looking to destroy as many job descriptions as possible. They already basically killed the book store. Your local grocery store and UPS Shipping Centers are next.