Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Amazon Left a Pig on My Doorstep


News from 2015 (scroll down for insights about "old school" delivery methods on farms) 

This new Amazon ad features actual flight footage of its delivery drone prototype--obviously good for "dog ate shoe" emergencies, but not yet delivering live hogs. 

Everyday delivery moves one step closer as a drone--with FFA approval--successfully deposited medicine to a rural health clinic.


Drone news buzzes overhead everyday--many pertaining to agriculture. Here are a few of the latest:
-- 5 ways drones could change the way America eats
-- A new center for unmanned aerial systems research will be led by several land grant universities and the Federal Aviation Administration
-- And for better or worse, just throw this drone in the air and it follows you around 

February 2015--Drone FAA Regulations Proposals:  
As this video shows, the FAA proposed rules regarding drone use, with agriculture, industries, movie studios and others anxious to get them flying. But others are wary, with privacy and near-miss problems in mind.

Smartphone Drones?  This reporter says, "Over the next decade, we'll see the rise of lightweight drones that fit in your pocket. In all practicality, they will be flying smartphones." For agriculture, this could add benefits to the precision ag movement, or it could edge us into a brave new farming world where "the good earth" becomes more virtual than real.   

Others are touting so-called "quadrotor" drones that are cheap and apparently easy to use.  From herding cattle to guided tours and film-making, there seems to be a drone for everything. Amazon is planning to use them for delivering parcels.

Amazon Delivery Drones are Fine, 
but the Watkins Man had Personality


Several news sources indicate that the Amazon company knows us so well they will be shipping items to us before we order them. They analyze our buying habits and move goods to a hub close by. Combined with their proposed drone delivery system, this could get interesting, but I want them to know, they ain’t so smart—we had anticipatory deliveries back in the days when digital referred to fingers, not a way of life.

The Watkins Company out of Minnesota started delivering spices, vitamins, and household cleaners back in the 1870s, and when I was a farm kid in the late 1950s they were still driving down dusty farm lanes on a regular basis. They would anticipate which households might need some cloves, candles, or castor oil.

Mom bought into their vitamin plan, but it’s safe to say we kids didn’t anticipate that delivery. We thought they tasted like horse pills, so for a while my brothers and I would excuse ourselves from the table to wash up, then hide the tablets behind the toilet. Eventually Mom found a gooey pile there, and I imagine our folks gently explained that we should take them the correct way or they might have to turn them into a suppository device.

Amazon might soon have the vitamins on our doorstep within minutes--by drone. This seems Jetson cool, but it will be tough maintaining the personal touch with this method. I’m not sure how the Fuller Brush man knew you needed a whisk broom for the back porch, but that human contact probably helped make sales. The milk delivery person was usually there in time to call out a cheery “good morning,” and in many places you could get groceries delivered by some eager youngster.

During our years living in Japan, my family used several of the anticipatory delivery services—the tofu man walked his cart by daily; the sweet potato truck, with a wood fire in the back, drove by enticingly on cold winter nights; and a diaper service would come every other day—soil bucket out, clean bundle in. They were data mining way before the techie companies of today by finding out which families in the crowded neighborhoods of Tokyo recently had babies.

This current Amazon craze might work or it might backfire. If they try to replace the Schwans ice cream trucks in our small towns, they will need to use dry ice or something to avoid a soggy package delivery. And if they start anticipating too much, things could get ugly. In our neck of the woods, fresh bacon is almost a religion, and if those drones start depositing 240-pound feeder pigs on doorsteps, the authorities are gonna raise a stink. 

dan gogerty (milk pic from edgecastcdn.net, japan truck pic from japantimes.co) 

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