It wasn’t a surprise that Amazon on Cyber Monday capitalized on its buzz-worthy plan to deliver packages to its customers’ doorsteps via drones.
Jeff Bezos used his “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday to get the ball rolling by talking about the innovative drone delivery plans. Though many people remain skeptical the idea will actually take hold, four or five or even 20 years from now, everyone tuned in to Amazon’s video, and it dominated conversation around the water cooler.
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I had to ask myself whether this was just a PR stunt or a real glimpse into the future of delivery. If someday Amazon navigates the miles of FAA red tape and mind-boggling logistics, will the American public even want these unmanned delivery devices flying through their neighborhoods?
From a PR perspective, it was another stroke of genius from the online retailing trailblazer. Jeff Bezos and Amazon are still on the cutting edge of new technology, always looking to reduce costs and streamline the delivery process. Even if they never get off the ground, the drones are still a cool idea—and few people will fault Amazon for innovating.
However, most people associate drones with spying and with cloak-and-dagger military operations in war zones. Almost daily we read stories about U.S.-operated drones conducting air strikes with mixed success. Those in the cross-hairs of military drones already see this as cowardice by the U.S. military.
Plus, there’s the idea that drones are being used as surreptitious surveillance devices. Just imagine having thousands of them flying overhead—it’s an idea tailor made for the spy masters of the NSA.
Yes, clearly Amazon’s plans for the drones are much more innocuous than the way drones are being used today, but most people will make that sinister connection.
To be fair, the Amazon drone delivery system is not a new concept. The idea was floated by FedEx founder Fred Smith in a 2009 Wired
magazine interview, though it never made major headlines.
Through Bezos, who popularized the e-reader and built a 10,000-year clock inside a mountain, we can glimpse the future. As Matt Waite, who founded the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska, said in an interview with The Switch
, “It’s all fun and games until little Sally loses a finger.”
It’ll be up to Amazon to assure the public that finger loss (or any other injury, physical or otherwise) isn’t a possibility. Then it’ll have to prove it.
Gil Rudawsky heads the crisis communication and issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. He is a former reporter and editor. Read his blog or contact him at email@example.com.