By now most tech-nerds like me have heard of the announcements of Jeff Bezos, regarding the future of parcel delivery. In case anyone hasn't, the founder of Amazon has claimed in quite grandiose manner that within five years Amazon will be delivering packages within 30 minutes using automated aerial drones. In theory, when a customer places an order, the warehouse attaches the package to a quad-copter with onboard GPS, and sends it out. The drone automatically flies to the destination, deposits the package, and then returns to headquarters.

It isn't going to happen.

It is a fun idea, but there are too many obstacles for it to be reality in only five years. Topping the list is bureaucracy - at present unmanned drones are illegal in the US, and in Canada paperwork must be filed with the government for each flight. There is no way Amazon will be filing pages of forms and fees just to deliver a $5 comic book. Second problem is the safety issue - an automated quadcopter doing 50km/h or more can cause a lot of damage to power lines, phone lines, laundry, birds, cars, animals, trees, and of course people. The liability insurance alone would be prohibitive. And accuracy of delivery would also be an issue - every GPS unit I have worked with has been only accurate to within about 20ft, which could be the difference between my porch and my neighbour's swimming pool (or my doorstep versus my chimney!). Undocumented renovations would complicate it even further.

And of course, even in the announcement they have included fine print. It will only be available within 16km of the warehouse, so most smaller communities or even larger towns will be excluded. It won't be able to carry packages greater than a certain relatively small size and weight (although Amazon claims that it will handle 85% of the current inventory). Even they are hedging on this one.

So in spite of the grand claims, this is really looking more like a publicity stunt than a serious possibility. However, we must all remember that these are grandiose claims made by a man who, fifteen years ago, claimed that he could mail books to people cheaper than they could buy them in local stores, and then went on to produce the most successful online business in the world. He is making grand claims, but in the past he has made them come true!