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Topic Review
JackInCT

[*] posted on 2-10-2016 at 02:16
FYI: NY Times Article: A Peek at the Secret English Farm Where Amazon Tests Its Drones

No it's not a typo/mistake; it's happening right now in England.

Very long article; so I verbatim c & p'ed about the first third of it since that much pretty says it all. Well it's no longer a secret now is it? And I had thought that you English, for the most part, knew better. Looking at it from a purely selfish perspective, tis better that your heads be put in jeopardy rather than ours here is the good olde USA.

I've attached a pix of an elderly woman in her lovely, well tended garden that accompanied this article just in case one fell on her and she wound up no longer with us. Her name is Julia Napier. She opposes the drones.

WORSTED LODGE, England — After hours of searching, I pulled onto a dirt track here in the rolling hills of Cambridgeshire and spotted a small dot whirring across the blue sky, gently swaying in the breeze as it steadily flew about 200 feet above the ground.

Jackpot: It was an Amazon drone.

Barely visible to the naked eye, the unmarked aircraft, about the size of a large model plane, floated across a field about 1,000 yards in the distance, the lights on its four-pronged sensors flashing brightly against the afternoon sun.

Amazon, the giant e-commerce company, began secretly testing unmanned aircraft this summer at an undisclosed location in Britain (its largest outdoor test site, according to an Amazon executive). I set out to find the top secret site, wanting to see how we all may one day receive online deliveries.

In retrospect, signs of Amazon’s secret tests were hidden in plain sight.

There was the warning to pilots that unmanned aircraft would be flying in the area, about an hour north of London, until early October; the uncharacteristically fast cellphone reception in such a remote area — a must when processing drone data; and the growing list of jobs and openings at Amazon’s research and development site in Cambridge related to Prime Air, the company’s ambitious plan to use drones for everyday deliveries.

Amazon is not alone, however, as other companies conduct drone trials around the world.

In New Zealand, Domino’s Pizza is testing drones to ferry fast food across the country. Google is offering burrito orders delivered by drone in Virginia. JD.com, the Chinese e-commerce giant, already has a fleet of drones flying autonomously for a maximum of 15 miles round-trip, to reach rural communities at a fifth of the cost of traditional trucks (though a person still takes the package on the last leg of its journey to the recipient).

In Britain, Amazon is working with local authorities to test several aspects of drone technology like piloting the machines beyond the line of sight of operators, a practice still outlawed in the United States.

Regulators here first authorized the commercial use of drones in 2010 — years before the Federal Aviation Authority eased its restrictions on remotely piloted aircraft in June. Amazon settled on Britain after the United States initially denied it approval for such tests.

At the site in the Cambridge countryside, and a similar facility in Canada, Amazon is likely to be working on the drone’s sensors and other improvements needed for its daily use.

A company spokeswoman declined to comment on the English test site.

With competitors aplenty, it is not surprising that Amazon wants to hide efforts from prying eyes. In Fulbourn, the nearest village to the test site, where thatch-roofed houses and a centuries-old church stand guard over the quiet main street, few people even knew that the American technology giant had moved in down the road.

“Drones? Here?” said Linda McCarthy, who was taking her two Labrador retrievers for their morning walk as I trudged by on a public footpath with a map of the area and a pair of decades-old binoculars. “I’ve never heard anything about that.”

Some people in this rural area have had angry reactions. To Julia Napier, a co-founder of Friends of the Roman Road and Fleam Dyke, a local association that maintains public footpaths around the site, Amazon’s arrival is a potential threat to local wildlife and the wider countryside, something the company has denied.

Over coffee and surrounded by wildlife maps of the area, Ms. Napier, 78, complained that Amazon had not consulted many local residents about its tests. She questioned what right the company had to fly across the British countryside, possibly without the permission of landowners, even though such authorization may not be required.

Ms. Napier refuses to use Amazon’s services, preferring to visit her local bookshop or smaller online British rivals.

Her stance against the e-commerce giant has not gone unnoticed. A company employee called last week, Ms. Napier said, trying to persuade her that the local drone trials were safe and did not pose a risk to wildlife.