“It was surreal. Initially I was kind of like, ‘Wow, what is that thing?’” Lisa Pleiss told ABC News today. “I stared at it for about thirty seconds and once I registered the cameras I felt very vulnerable.”
Pleiss had the presence of mind to snap a picture of the aircraft — which she posted on Facebook, of course — and her building’s concierge grabbed a photo of two men rushing to pack up a video camera and tripod into a car. Did they break the law? You’d think so, but Seattle police say it isn’t clear what law would apply.
It isn’t likely that anyone from Amazon would engage in that sort of numbskull behavior, but the specter of a fleet of drones buzzing around a crowded city worries regulators. The FAA banned the unauthorized use of drones and model planes near airports, and now it’s saying companies cannot use drones to deliver packages.
News of the thumbs down for delivery drones was tucked away in an FAA document detailing its polices on model aircraft. Flying drones for fun, or even using them to take pictures for personal use (voyeurism isn’t mentioned in the document), is fine, but delivering packages for a fee is not, according to the FAA. Even if Amazon does not charge a fee for delivery, items still can’t be shipped via drone, the FAA said. And realtors can’t use drones to take pictures of properties they’re trying to sell.
The FAA is currently reviewing its policy on drones and is accepting public comments. A permanent policy is expected sometime next year. In the meantime, keep your blinds drawn.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.