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The fleet of drones Amazon is not about to fly

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Revealing its experimental program delivery drone, Prime Air , Sunday evening, Amazon scored a triple blow: create buzz on the eve of "Cyber ​​Monday," one of the most important for the online business days away the attention of the public criticism of working conditions in warehouses and improve its image as an innovative company in the face of retail giants struggling. For the rest, it is primarily an announcement effect.

"We hope that the FAA (the U.S. aviation authority) adopt guidelines by 2015," wrote Amazon on its official website. In 60 Minutes Sunday, his boss, Jeff Bezos, was more cautious, focusing on a period of five years. In practice, the FAA considers the problem since 2009 and can not seem to make a decision. The date of 2015 was set by Congress, but the agency has already been delayed. Some items might still remain in limbo until 2026. For now, fly a drone unmanned is illegal, and many fines have already been distributed. In the five-year plan unveiled recently, the FAA states that gear "visual distance remaining to the driver." Clearly, we rather talking toy for amateurs, or drones used by farmers or the RATP site, no octoptères flying within 30 kilometers of Amazon warehouses. Even if the French legislation has taken the lead, the company has always preferred a "U.S. first" approach to new products and services.

Flying a drone over the Afghan desert is one thing. In an urban jungle between commercial aircraft, buildings and electrical cables, it is more complicated. Between 2007 and 2012, the U.S. military has identified more than 200 incidents : GPS loses contact, engine problem, crash or explosion, the risks are many. "They are too small to appear on radar. When a drone crash into the reactor of an airliner, everybody pay attention, " said on ABC retired pilot Tom Jeffries. Even assuming that the GPS accuracy increased to aim the mat and embedded sensors help avoid kitty, the drone will still face potential thieves or hackers. According to John Hansman, professor of aeronautics at MIT , these challenges, such as those of the autonomous car, however, are "not insurmountable."

Operate an unmanned autonomous monitoring costs between 2,000 and 3,000 euros per hour in the U.S. Army . At the other extreme, the startup Matternet forwarded a package of 2 pounds to Haiti and figure the cost to less than one euro for a journey of 10 km. Amazon probably would lie between the two and express delivery in less than 30 minutes would cost between 100 and 200 euros to the consumer , according to several experts. With unveiled (a drone for a package) model, the system does not take advantage of economies of scale while a truck embarks him, more than 100 package. Today, Amazon has only about 60 centers routing in the world, only four in France. In a radius of 30 km, the giant of online business touches so far not many people. Couriers and truckers are not yet unemployed.

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