The Big Problem With Amazon's Drones

by Emma Cueto

Ever since Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos went on 60 Minutes and just casually told the world that package delivery by drones is totally going to be a thing at some point, everyone has been freaking out a little bit. But it turns out the worst part of this plan might not be the idea of a sky full of paperback book-laden drones that may or may not crash into things and/or spy on people with their cameras. The worst part about this idea might be the impact it would have on birds. As Nicholas Lund points out in Slate, bird are going to attack these things. Like a lot.

And while being mobbed by a flock of swallows or viciously attacked by a falcon will almost definitely interfere with the drones, it also probably wouldn’t be too great for the birds, either. In the process of defending their aerial territory and their nests from these perceived threats, they could become seriously injured. So why is this not an angle that most people consider — or an angle Amazon seems to have considered at all, since Bezos is so confident in his drones?

The sad truth is that environmental concerns often take a back seat in the relentless march of progress. Of course, it's entirely possible that birds are the first problem Amazon's hypothetical drone team considered, but somehow I doubt it. When considering the logistics for a project like filling the sky with drones, I'd imagine the first instinct would be to think about the mechanics or the FAA approval or the cost effectiveness of said machines. The environmental impact seems likely to be a secondary or tertiary or nonexistent consideration.

The sad truth is that it probably won’t be birds that stop drones from hitting the skies, any more than whale deaths have kept the Navy from conducting underwater sonar testing. Such impacts are compartmentalized as “environmental impacts” instead of “willful destruction of the only planet capable of supporting human life.”

Because the thing to remember in all of this is that the environment isn’t an issue or a problem. It’s the natural habitat of the human race. And it exists everywhere. So instead of referring to the “environment,” maybe we should just start calling it the world. and instead of thinking of it last, maybe we should think of it always.

So if, by some miracle Amazon’s drones do get up in the sky, I’ll be rooting for the raptors.