Amazon’s proposed drone delivery will threaten peace in the suburbs
Sometimes, I lie awake at night, tormented by a vision of America that resembles “Blade Runner,” “1984” and “Star Wars” — and it has nothing to do with totalitarianism, socialism, communism, capitalism or Yoda. Well, to tell the truth, it has a little to do with consumerism.
Let me start by describing the peaceful all-American life I once knew in suburbia. In those days, a neighbor would occasionally disturb our tranquility with his leaf blower, blowing leaves into the street for eight hours ... in the hope that passing motorists would grind them up.
High school kids would get off the bus, squealing, laughing and cursing. A disgruntled dog might bark, but it was nothing like the good ole days when canines ran free and chased cars up and down the street. (Fortunately, dogs can’t chase cars anymore, so canine life expectancy has increased, and pretty soon it will pass the life expectancy of the middle-aged white male.)
However, our tranquil existence is being turned upside down with the burgeoning popularity of online shopping. UPS, FedEx and U.S. Postal Service trucks are driving up and down the street and back again, even on Sunday.
My neighbors do so much online shopping that the town dump is overflowing with Amazon boxes, which makes me wonder where Greta Thunberg is when we need her. Whenever a delivery truck drives by, every dog in the neighborhood goes into hysterics, as if they’re suffering from Mad Dog Disease. I’ve often wondered why dogs bark at mailmen and women. Is it because they’re genetically similar to the gray wolves that prowl the woods looking for prey? I’ll leave those questions to experts like Dr. Phil and the Postmaster General to answer, but I’m convinced this behavior should be the topic of federally funded research at an institution like UCLA or Cesar Millan’s School for Wayward Canines.
This much I know. The problem is going to get much worse because all our online shopping is leading to what I call “Amazon Armageddon,” which is sure to begin with the launch of Amazon Prime Air — a new service whose mission is to “deliver packages up to five pounds in 30 minutes or less using small drones.”
Star Wars is coming to suburbia. I fear there will be so many drones in our neighborhood that the skies will look like an aerial battle between Han Solo and Darth Vader ... or London during the blitz.
By Amazon’s definition, a “small drone” is probably the size of a Mini Cooper. It will be electric-powered and self-driven, although I’d prefer to have Alexa behind the wheel. Do you have any idea what this will mean to slumbering suburbanites, to the dog population, to raptors, to Duck Dynasty, to Frisbee players and to power lines, not to mention trees?
Amazon insists the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. “Safety and security are top priorities as we look to incorporate small drones into the airspace,” their spokesperson said. “We're working with regulators and industry to design an air traffic management system that will recognize who is flying what drone, where they are flying, and whether they are adhering to operating requirements.” Does that make you feel better?
From 75 to 90 percent of deliveries can be handled by drones, and it is “only a matter of months” until they start shipping packages to consumers.
I fear for our safety, not to mention our serenity. I’m convinced people who have a spending problem, myself included, will have front yards that look like LaGuardia Airport on Thanksgiving. But who are we to stand in the way of progress?
We just have to take the necessary precautions. Make sure your shades are shut and that your dog, not to mention your parakeet, cat and goldfish, are locked up somewhere safe. Avoid putting your head or hands near the blades on delivery day, and do NOT stand under the drone when it drops your package.
Joe Pisani can be reached at email@example.com.