Senator Ed Markey Wants Guidelines In Place Before Amazon Starts Shipping Packages Via Drones

Congress is scheduled to take up the e-commerce aircrafts during a hearing next year.

Not so fast, package-delivering Amazon drones.

Before any robots take to the skies to ship customers their goods in record time, State Senator Ed Markey wants to make sure the autonomous objects are federally regulated.

“Before drones start delivering packages, we need the FAA to deliver privacy protections for the American public. Convenience should never trump Constitutional protections,” Markey said in a statement on Monday. “Before our skies teem with commercial drones, clear rules must be set that protect the privacy and safety of the public.”

Markey’s statement was in direct response to a 60 Minutes segment that aired Sunday night, which featured an interview with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. During the interview, Bezos talked about what’s next for the online retail company and specifically mentioned Amazon’s vested interest in using unmanned aerial vehicles to drop off orders to customers in a 30-minute timeframe, much like a pizza delivery service.

Although the concept, as Bezos noted, is far from happening, the company is already testing out what they call “octocopters” in their lab.

Here’s what Bezos had to say on 60 Minutes:

“There’s no reason that they can’t be used as delivery vehicles. We’re talking about delivery. There’s an item going into the vehicle. I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not.”

The drones would be capable of carrying five-pound packages within a 10-mile radius of the company’s “fulfillment centers,” where inventory is stored. According to Bezos, packages that size make up 86 percent of the orders from customers using the site.

But before the GPS-programmed drones can go soaring through the sky with products in their grips, Congress plans on looking at the feasibility of the e-commerce concept during a committee hearing next year—something that was in the works before Sunday’s segment.

In November, Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, introduced legislation known as the “Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act,” which would require transparency in the use of domestic drones and privacy protections to ensure drones cannot be used to spy on people, even if they are making simple deliveries.

“I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues on this bipartisan issue to ensure that strong personal privacy protections and public transparency measures are put in place now,” he said.

Bezos recognized that the hardest part of getting the project off the ground would be roadblocks by the FAA and members of Congress. Not to mention, the reliability of unmanned machines doing all the work without making a mistake.

“I know it can’t be before 2015, because that’s the earliest we could get the rules from the FAA,” he told 60 Minutes. “My guess is … that’s probably a little optimistic. But could it be, you know, four, five years? I think so. It will work, and it will happen, and it’s [going to] be a lot of fun.”