Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

Commentary: Drones may deliver future Christmas gifts

If there’s one thing we have already learned this holiday season, it’s that we want our gratification instantly or not at all.

Ordering stuff off of the Internet is now a contest to see who can deliver it to us the quickest and cheapest. Ground shipping? Get out of town, pal. Two-day? So 2009.

Even overnight shipping isn’t really quite cutting it anymore. That’s, like, as many as 24 hours, and we can only sleep for eight of those. What are we supposed to do with the other 16?

However, we have good news. Amazon knows just how lazy and impatient we’ve all become. You may have heard the company announced on a recent edition of “60 Minutes” that it plans by around 2016 or so to introduce a fleet of unmanned “Prime Air” drone aircraft that will deliver packages remotely.


Poised to take a big bite out of the business of FedEx, UPS and the poor U.S. Postal Service, the small, multirotor copters would initially have a delivery range of about 10 miles and weight limit of around 5 pounds.

The craft looks like the love child of a Black Hawk and a mosquito. Fortunately, it will not be carrying malaria but Amazon’s vast array of goods.

The kicker is that Prime Air drones — which are at least three years away from reality — are designed to get you your order in 30 minutes.

As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained, the idea behind drone delivery is to remove the final barrier separating his company from the kind of retail dominance that would render brick-and-mortar businesses obsolete.


Let’s forget for a moment all of the logistical hurdles that will need to be cleared before droneline shopping and shipping actually transpires, before we see these Amazonian mini-beasts hovering over local streets to zip that tin of butter cookies and Tickle Me Oprah doll to your castle — untouched en route by human hands.

Here is the question I have: Is the price of mega-expediency our very soul?

Wait. That sounds a little overly dramatic. What I mean is, why do we think we need everything so immediately, anyway?

There is actually something we gain in the waiting, in not having every wish and whim fulfilled instantaneously. We find a certain gratification in the passage of time between order and fulfillment, knowing that something is coming.

This is to say nothing of the further seclusion that 30-minute delivery of all things imaginable pretty much guarantees. Think of the social isolation generated by ordering at home — likely by yourself — and not having even to say “thank you” while signing for the person doing the delivering. That person, after all, is now a conveyance.

The obvious fear is that the Amazons of our lives are pushing us further and further inside our four walls, inside our electronics, inside ourselves. They are also breeding a populace whose satisfaction is predicated on speed and convenience over every other factor — including the journey that defines the experience itself.

When exactly did it all become about now-now-now and hurry-hurry-hurry? There seems to be an app for everything except chilling out. The one thing that drones will never be able to deliver is the serenity of not particularly caring how long it takes.

It’s nice to be able to get something quickly when you really need it, of course. But we simply don’t have to possess every single thing as soon as the thought to obtain it enters our head. And trust me, 30 minutes will soon seem like an eternity. The new standard will be shipping via supersonic catapult that flings merchandise from fulfillment center to living room in 20 seconds or less.


Anyway, sorry to drone on about this. It’s just that an ever-speedier world kind of feels to me like an emptier one. I’m also struggling to figure out how much I’ll be expected to tip my drone at Christmas.

Journalist RAY RICHMOND has covered Hollywood and the entertainment business since 1984.