Amazon drones are back in the news following the emergence of an ad by the company seeking flight operators with military experience.
While Amazon continues to test drones in the US, it seems that the company is moving further forward with its “Prime Air” delivery scheme in the UK. This is possibly due to the fact that the Federal Aviation Administration has not moved to ease restrictions on private drone operation in the US, despite Amazon seeking permission to fly drones back in July.
The ad, posted to Amazon’s career page, reveals that the company is looking to hire a Flight Operations Engineer, a Project Manager, a Site Leader and a Software Development Engineer to be stationed at a research and development office in Cambridge.
“If you want to apply state-of-the-art technologies to solve extreme-scale real world problems… If you want the satisfaction of providing visible benefit to end-users in an iterative fast paced environment… This is your opportunity,” the ad reads.
It states that the company is looking for individuals who can “drive innovation”, and that successful applicants will be “working on the future.”
With specific regard to the position of Flight Operations Engineer, the ad notes “You can expect to collaborate on test plans, plan the test evolution, and execute the flights while working closely with our flight engineering and flight test teams in Seattle.”
“We’re looking for aerospace, systems, or other engineers with extensive UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] flight experience.” the ad also states, noting that at least five years’ experience of operating drones, presumably with the military or defence contractors, is required.
Amazon drones first made headlines last December, when a YouTube video of one of the drones delivering a parcel was released by the company.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos then appeared on CBS’ 60 Minutes, claiming that the company was planning to deliver goods by drone within five years.
“These are effectively drones, but there’s no reason that they can’t be used as delivery vehicles.” Bezos said at the time, adding “I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not. It’s very green, it’s better than driving trucks around.”
“We can do half-hour delivery and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds, which covers 86% of the items that we deliver.” he also stated.
UAV experts responded with warnings that the drones will inevitably crash into people and other objects because the technology is not yet sophisticated enough to equip the drones with spatial awareness that would prevent collisions.
This is a factor also cited by the FAA, which discovered during safety testing of drones that the devices would routinely crash into other objects, even in airspace where no other aircraft were operating.
FAA rules governing the use of drones on a widespread basis are expected to be implemented sometime in 2015.
While the safety aspect is obviously something Amazon has many years to work on fixing, concern has shifted to whether or not the drones will double as surveillance tools.
“One solution (to the safety aspect) that has been floated is installing cameras on the drones, but just the mention of eyes in the sky got America’s privacy-obsessed sections seething,” reported FirstPost.
Lawmakers and rights groups, including ACLU, responded by calling for strict privacy safeguards, warning that the devices could be used to gather private information on customers, including video and images of homes.
Other concerns have centered around the drones being shot out of the sky or compromised by hackers.
Many have dismissed the notion of Amazon drones as a marketing ploy to garner media attention and boot sales. Former editor-in-chief of Wired turned commercial drone mogul Chris Anderson labeled Amazon’s proposal “incredibly stupid,” dismissing the idea of drones being used in built-up areas.
Doubters have cited the fact that huge numbers of people who live in major cities (Amazon’s primary target market for drone delivery) live in apartments, meaning there would be nowhere for the drones to land to deliver the goods. In addition, the packages and the drones themselves could easily be stolen by thieves.
However, it seems that the company really is intent on moving forward with the drone program, and it isn’t alone. Earlier this year, Google began testing on a delivery system called Project Wing, using autonomous drones to ship goods.
Facebook has also been testing drones as part of a program called Connectivity Lab, which it claims is designed to deliver affordable wireless Internet access globally.
Steve Watson is a London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.