Imagine pouring yourself a hot cup of coffee and sitting down to do bit of online shopping. You pick out a small item, put it in your cart and check out. Within minutes, it's floating softly to your doorstep, processed and delivered before the steam is even off of your mug.
Until recently, this sort of scene would be impossibly futuristic. For Amazon, it's tantalizingly close to the present.
The company is close to being able to deploy drones, unmanned aerial vehicles that can curry small packages directly to customer's doorsteps. The technological difficulties, including increasing battery life, devising tracking sensors and decentralizing command logic, are coming close to solution. Amazon expects that the public will be receptive — who wouldn't want the ability to get their purchases more quickly?
One of the major hurdles, rather, is insurance.
Companies have to fully be onboard with providing coverage for these flights before they become commercially viable. Even for a short trip from a warehouse in San Bernardino to a house a few miles away, Amazon would need California general liability insurance. Add in the unique nature of the deliveries and the novel technology employed, and the difficulty in finding the right policy becomes clearer.
Humberto Gonzalez, PhD, an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, cited this search as an essential concern.
"Amazon has willing and smart people. They are going to do a fantastic job of engineering these drones, I have no doubt. But if we can't figure out the issues of regulation and insurance, the drones will not be able to take off," notes Gonzalez.
Hopefully, the company will apply that savvy to getting the right liability coverage. If not, the exciting program could be scuttled before it even gets off the ground.