Minnesota brewing company successfully delivers drinks with drones - The Daily Athenaeum: Opinion

Minnesota brewing company successfully delivers drinks with drones

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Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014 12:44 am

In an attempt to satisfy thirsty ice fishermen, Minnesota-based brewing company Lakemaid has developed a delivery system for their popular winter lager.

Inspired by a recent “60 Minutes,” in which Amazon proposed same-day delivery through the use of drones, Lakemaid developed its own unmanned aerial vehicle.

After ironing out a few kinks, the company sent out its first beer delivery drone to an ice fishing shack on nearby Lake Mille Lacs, and the operation was a success.

In response to the growing popularity, Lakemaid posted a short video to YouTube of the beer drone in action. The video follows a 12-pack of Lakemaid Winter Lager as it’s propelled through the air by a buzzing drone. We see the beer take flight from the Bait & Tackle shop, hover over a snowy lake and land safely at the doorstep of an ice fishing shack. We see the fishermen inside their shack, enjoying the fruits of robotic labor.

The video went viral in just a few days. People applauded Lakemaid’s ingenuity and their dedication to customers. Much of the reaction among message boards seemed to echo the same sentiment: When will my local brewery have the capability to deliver drinks to my door?

Support for Lakemaid’s beer drone was not unanimous. The video also garnered some unwanted attention, most notably from the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates and oversees all manner of American civil aviation.

A branch of the Department of Transportation, the FAA determines standards for safe air travel and, among other things, operates air traffic control systems for the United States. Lakemaid was served with a cease and desist order by the FAA, citing a number of critical violations.

While there is no legislation in place making the use of drones completely illegal, the FAA does strictly enforce a number of key regulations.

Drones are prohibited to fly over populated areas. They are not to exceed an elevation of 400 feet. They must weigh less than 55 pounds and may not be used for commercial purposes. Toy drones and those used for recreational purposes are considered acceptable by the FAA, providing they follow the aforementioned guidelines.

For many, the simple mention of the word ‘drone’ may yield a largely negative response. In recent years, the use of UAVs has most commonly been associated with various covert government operations on both foreign and domestic shores. Drones are frequently used in combat strikes regarded as being too dangerous for manned vehicles. They are used in search and rescue missions and to deliver supplies over areas littered with IEDs.

Drones can also be used for surveillance, an element that doesn’t sit well with many Americans. In light of recent controversies surrounding government surveillance, many civil liberties groups are concerned about privacy violations, citing the potential for spying by law enforcement on unknowing citizens.

The FAA has promised to revise its restrictions on commercial UAVs as early as 2015. Those interested in employing drones for business purposes would have to undergo special training and obtain an operator’s license. The first run of drones will most likely be utilized for larger commercial functions such as agriculture, etc. While companies such as Amazon and Lakemaid may not be granted the first round of permissions by the FAA, their legal access to UAVs is in the foreseeable future.

The question is, will the use of drones by well-loved, more familiar companies work to lessen the public’s paranoia about flying robots? In June, Domino’s unveiled their own video of the Pizza Drone, capable of delivering two pizzas at a time, much faster than your average delivery boy. How could a simple, faceless machine delivering pizza to your door be met with anything but open arms?

Instead of focusing on all the negative connotations associated with drones, perhaps we should ask: What can drones do for me? The answer is a lot.

A drone can save you the hassle of driving to the store and burning expensive gas. Drones are cheaper than helicopters and reduce urban congestion. They also deliver beer and pizza. Sure, drones have their faults. But we must consider that these are fairly simple machines, which operate strictly under the command of humans. UAVs can be seen as a tool to strengthen our well being and grant us a new level of convenience.

Whether a drone is used for ill purposes is of no concern to the machine. In the end, it’s only a machine. Blame the human.

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