Aug 10th, 2016

When Amazon and Google first announced their drone delivery initiatives, it sent shockwaves – of both excitement and concern – through the tech community, . It’s not difficult to imagine robots flying around delivering our goods, carefully parachuting packages from the air like storks do babies – much like flying cars, the idea sounds wonderful – but the number of regulatory complications and safety/privacy concerns seem overwhelming.

I’m here to tell you that the White House disagrees.

“Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is announcing new steps, sustained by public and private support, to promote the safe integration and innovative adoption of unmanned aircraft systems across the United States.”

The report makes bold claims about the potential economic impact and job creation possibilities over the next decade, identifying specific opportunities where the impact could be large and immediate. One particular passage stood out, where the US government seems seriously interested in offering a drone delivery service of their own:

Today, the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General is announcing its intention to publish new findings and analysis on the public’s rapidly-evolving opinion of drone delivery as a potential future logistics technology. Several topics are covered in the study, including the opinion of survey respondents to unmanned aircraft delivery’s overall appeal, its most and least compelling applications, the believability of claims about its potential benefits, the public’s expected timeframe for implementation of operations, potential downsides of the proposed technology, and how the public would view drone delivery if it were offered by the U.S. Postal Service and a small collection of other interested organizations.

That presents an interesting challenge to the tech mammoths who have been pioneering drone delivery efforts. Imagine if the US Government announced a new program to offer self-driving taxis as a new form of public communication; that’d quite disrupt the sharing economy built by Uber, even if Uber themselves were to adopt self-driving vehicles.

Drone delivery tech is in very early stages, but the US government is going full steam ahead in their research, planning for initiatives that range from delivery of medicine to rural areas using drones to requiring new legal standards for drone racing leagues.

Would you welcome a world where the US Government delivered your mail and more by way of drones? What concerns do you have? And when do you think we’ll see this technology hit the masses?