The drones are coming! The drones are coming!

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Updated May 25, 2023

Amazon prime-airOf course I had to blog about the choreographed Amazon “announcement” over the weekend of something called “Amazon Prime Air,” a purported program-in-process to send drone aircraft to the doorsteps of the citizenry bringing all manner of wealth and riches in the form on online-placed orders. If that’s not a move toward drone-run freight, I don’t know what is.

We’ve of course speculated on various in-U.S. drone uses on the blog and elsewhere on from time to time — from Phil Madsen’s DOT drones to space freight-hauling to more recent wonders at the future of driverless-auto technology — but none of these has been backed by a retailing juggernaut’s somewhat official announcement.

So, the million-dollar question: Any chance “Amazon Prime Air” drones will be taking scads of that last-mile freight off straight trucks and panel vans in the near future? Not hardly, according to Wired writer Marcus Wohlsen, who wrote this aptly titled story yesterday (here’s that title: “Even if the Feds Let Them Fly, Amazon’s Delivery Drones Are Still Nonsense”).

Wohlsen’s piece dubs Prime Air Amazon’s “unmanned aerial publicity machine,” representing little more than Charlie Rose and 60 Minutes‘ complicity in a hype effort aimed at dominating airwaves heading into so-called “Cyber Monday.” (Which was yesterday, drat — anybody get any good online discounts?)

But I suppose we’ll see. Any chance such a program will ever make sense?

CSA fix in the works, or just a small kink in the armor
Speaking of drones, a commenter under the news yesterday about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s finally released plan to deal with the problem of adjudicated citations in the Compliance, Safety, Accountability safety scoring system (violations for which a citation is written and that a court later throws out have remained as a contributing factor in carriers’ CSA scores/on driver PSPs) responded to another who spoke quite negatively on the subject of government: “Be careful. They will drone attack you if you make them mad.”

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Jokes aside, the Federal Register notice on the CSA DataQs change (open for comment now) does at least address what exactly states should do with violations associated with a citation reversed or thrown out by the court — it requires them either to be removed from the CSA scoring system or, if the conviction is on a related but different charge, changed to the lowest point value possible in whatever BASIC, more or less.

The old practice to insist on a ticket for violations in order to fight them in court, thus, will mean something for the first time relative to CSA once this practice is in place. The problem, however, is one some commenters were quick to notice among some of the applause that went up with this news. CSA is still here, after all — any violation received more or less automatically still goes directly into carrier safety scores in the BASICs, and onto driver PSP reports, and after the court system catches up with it, if it is dismissed or reversed by said court system, it’s still not the state or federal government’s responsibility to to remove it — carriers will still have to file that DataQ challenge to get it gone for good.

The data systems tracking our lives and businesses, in the end, require much more of our attention and time than any airborne threat, wouldn’t you say?