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Amazon's Drones (EP.17)

Updated: Oct 9

[Abstract]

In this episode, Paul and Justin discuss Amazon's "High plans". Amazon’s Air division was granted permission to fly by the FAA, and they are currently testing delivering packages by drones in several countries. Amazon released a slew of new products including a Ring Always Home Cam that flies around your home with video recording capabilities. There has already been some discussion on privacy issues, and the product doesn’t get released until next year.


Sources:

https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Prime-Air/b?ie=UTF8&node=8037720011

https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-prime-air-drone-program-cleared-by-faa-photos-2020-9#they-have-a-sense-and-avoid-system-that-helps-avoid-obstacles-like-wires-or-chimneys-using-machine-learning-and-artificial-intelligence-2

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/24/technology/amazon-ring-drone.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kelseyatherton/2020/09/25/amazon-ring-drone-spies-on-the-inside-of-your-home/#70feb7481a21

https://www.cnet.com/news/amazons-ring-drone-camera-sets-a-bad-precedent-for-privacy/

https://www.cnet.com/news/amazon-luna-ring-camera-drone-new-alexa-features-everything-amazon-announced-this-fall/




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[Talking Points]

The information in this episode comes from Business Insider, Amazon.com, CNET, & Forbes.com


What Amazon has been doing with drones lately?

Actually a few different projects about drones. The first one we’ll talk about is the Amazon Air division. According to Business Insider, The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted Amazon permission to fly its fleet of Prime Air drones. An FAA spokesperson confirmed the ruling to Business Insider, stating that the retail giant got an air carrier certificate allowing unmanned aircraft systems, on August 29.”


Amazon can deliver something to your house within an hour or so, using a drone?


Yeah, the air drone project has actually been in the works since 2013. They are currently testing it in the United States, United Kingdom, Austria, France, and Israel.


Wow, that’s pretty amazing. I wonder what kind of drones they’ll be using or when this service will be available?


According to Amazon.com, “We will deploy when and where we have the regulatory support needed to safely realize our vision. We’re excited about this technology and one day using it to deliver packages to customers around the world in 30 minutes or less.” They also say they are testing several different types of vehicle designs.


Yeah, it looks like they have one that can carry up to 30 pounds, and are testing many more vehicles in several different environments. That may help a lot of people out, depending on where they may live. So Justin, what else has Amazon been up to in the drone department?


So last week, they previewed a bunch of new products including Amazon Luna, which is a cloud gaming service. A newly re-designed 4th generation Echo, Echo Dot, and children’s echo speaker. The new Ring Car Connect, which is a security camera for your car. The Echo show which is a direct competitor of the Facebook portal. And most importantly the Ring Always Home Cam.


So the Ring Always Home Cam is a drone with a camera built into it that provides surveillance at your home when you are not there. It does dock into a base station that hides the camera when it’s not being used, however, Justin can you see any privacy issues happening with this new device?


This product has a lot of mixed reactions when they announced it last week. Privacy issues are definitely being discussed. The drone can see what’s in your home. It can give Amazon even more information about you, which they will certainly use to try and sell you a more personalized shopping experience online.


I can see that being an issue, especially since we have discussed privacy and personal data on several of our episodes. You program this drone on a certain path in your house, and it will notify you if it sees anything out of the ordinary. It sounds like it could be handy, however, CNET.com states that it sets a bad precedent for privacy.


Amazon has already been beefing up the listening skills of Alexa adding Alexa guard and Guard Plus. According to CNET.com, “Alexa Guard and Guard Plus listen for a wide range of noises like glass breaking and footfalls, and Amazon is expanding the voice assistant's ability to respond to such noises, too -- including babies crying, dogs barking, people snoring and more. I would be surprised to see Amazon's cam drone not offering proactive monitoring in response to certain noises when it releases next year.”


It certainly raises a lot of questions. I did find it interesting as well that this drone doesn’t have to abide by the normal FAA guidelines. According to Forbes.com, “These preset flight paths are fully autonomous, and thanks to a quirk of drone law, the Always Home Cam’s interior flights likely make it exempt from FAA rules regarding drone operation or drone use. Drones flown inside a home fall outside regulations and laws governing vehicles in public airways.”


As with any technology, there is a trade-off for convenience for privacy. The battery life on this device is only about 5 minutes, so it’s effectiveness may not be enough to justify its purpose.

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