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Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Amazon drones a dumb idea? Laugh at your risk

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Published:   |   Updated: December 3, 2013 at 09:17 AM

Go ahead and laugh.

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos said Sunday on “60 Minutes” that drones could one day deliver your Christmas order straight from the distribution center to your door. He says the process could take about a half hour, which I guess means he should have broken the story on “30 Minutes” instead.

They had video of Santa Drone delicately depositing your package right on the front step of your house.

It looked really cool.

OK, it looked really ridiculous.

I mean, why not outfit the drones with antlers and paint “Rudolph” on the side? And since Amazon is going to open a huge warehouse near Ruskin, the drones really might just be cover for the South Hillsborough Liberation Army’s incursion into Palma Ceia.

The drone concept was widely lampooned, especially on Slate.com, where the news report was dismissed as “hot air” and an “infomercial” for the company. The story went on to cite Federal Aviation Administration regulations about unmanned aircraft delivering Kindle Fire HDs to your front step.

Go ahead and laugh.

But when Amazon opened as an online bookstore in 1995, I remember thinking, “Why in the world would anyone order books online?” I’m pretty sure I laughed then, too.

That was before home computers and tablets changed the way we read books, especially now that you can download a best-seller in about 12 seconds.

Amazon also rendered all my DVDs obsolete by offering streaming movies straight to the tablet it will deliver to your door.

I’m sure the day will come when I can have a drone deliver the drone I ordered, because I can order just about anything now on Amazon, and it actually shows up on time. Unlike a certain national health care plan that shall not be named, these guys have a computer system that works.

I understand the skepticism, though. It throws off the whole equilibrium of home delivery. If Amazon goes to drones, FedEx might have to counter. But how?

A flying truck?

And what happens if you’re late paying your bill?

Does a little red dot appear on your roof as the company sends the enforcer drone to settle up accounts?

What about returns? Would you just leave the package by the curb, waiting for mission control in south Hillsborough to send the retriever drone?

And if there is a targeting malfunction of sorts, could your Christmas package wind up circling Atlanta, stuck behind a 737 from Syracuse?

I assume Bezos, genius that he is, has thought this through.

In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he hasn’t moved past the drone concept already and gone straight to the “Star Trek” particle transfer beam for package delivery.

Go ahead and laugh, as you pick up your tablet and finish your Christmas shopping in about two minutes. That idea sounded just plain nuts once, too.

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