In the 1960s cartoon show “The Jetsons,” Rosie the maid took great care of the family. She never gossiped, complained about her wages, or left the family hanging while she took a vacation. She didn’t have a human consciousness either, but that didn’t matter. The animated comedy was a prophetic portend of what our age of advancing technology has been inching us towards: the age of the drone. If you want a job done right, do it yourself, or get a drone to do it. Drones don’t ask for a living wage, take a lunch break, or need maternity leave. If a job is too dangerous, you can skip the Hazmat pay and just have one of these programmable beauties take the risk.
The CIA has been using drones for flyovers of enemy or suspected enemy territory since before Sept. 11, 2001. After a drone spotted a man in Afghanistan whom they purported to be Osama Bin Laden, the government kicked up the game after the 9/11 attacks and began using drones for war attacks. Unlike previous wars, spy planes and air attacks could finally be accomplished without putting a pilot’s life in jeopardy.
Then companies like Amazon, the world’s most popular online store, decided to try using drones to deliver their packages. Quick, easy, and efficient, their success spurred on other companies to try this method as well.
According to an article in The Independent, No Need to Raise Wages, Get a Drone For the Job, drones will take over $127 billion worth of human tasks by the year 2020. All it takes is more deregulation and pretty soon your pizza delivery “guy” will get there at the speed of light and will not care if you are a rude idiot who doesn’t tip.
Already being used
Drones do need people to actually coordinate and fly the trip remotely, so experience drone drivers will soon have their pick of high paying positions. Amazon requires that drone drivers have at least 5 years experience so it’s not a stretch that ex-military who have these skills will be able to transfer them to the private sector.
The Chinese have been using drones for delivery since 2015. CNN reports that Alibaba, a tea company, made trial deliveries to 450 customers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The permits and logistics are being handled by YTO Express. The problem is that much of China’s airspace is presently controlled by the military, so that provides a challenge for drone commerce in that country. Still, they handled customers on a “first come, first serve” basis, as this new technology was quite a hit with their population. Who wouldn’t want the tea to be served at a business meeting dropped on site? The biggest challenge besides government deregulation and sharing of military space, will be keeping up with the sheer demand for drone service.
When the internet first hit the scene, it was dial up, so everyone with a phone could get connected. There are still some areas of the US without wi-fi, so some areas will be serviced by drones faster than others. The use of drones have been lambasted by citizens concerned about their privacy, as they claim, and rightly so, that it’s way to easy to spy on someone using a drone. Perhaps private detective, already partially replaced by internet search history, will finally go by the wayside when an undercover drone can do the whole job.
What it means for the economy
This is great news for technology, but sad news for the vastly unemployed in our global economy. If the advent of computers put many workers out of a job, drones will take it to the next level, by doing jobs like handling insurance claims, serving food and washing your windows. Many of today’s grandmothers are a bit unnerved when they visit their daughters -in- law, just watching a Roomba sweeper takes care of the kitchen floor. It’s not hard to imagine that soon a “nanny drone” will be on flyover duty to escort the kids to and from their walk to school. The drone will be able to drop off an after school snack as well, so who needs grandma? Maybe she can wait at home for the kids and watch the upstairs windows get a good washing.
There is some fine tuning that needs to happen to ensure that drones don’t take out your trees or disturb your pets, but as everyone is under surveillance all the time, this should quickly be sorted. There are some opponents to drones, and the very thought of them doing human tasks strikes fear in the heart of those who are still adjusting to logging on to a website to order that pizza. If your dog doesn’t like it when UPS comes barreling down your road, imagine how they will react when drones are buzzing all around the neighborhood, making deliveries and picking up dry cleaning. Going through an automated loop to get to an agent may soon connect you with a representative who never needs a bathroom break. With the rising cost of health care and the debates about employers providing coverage, it makes more sense economically to use drones for many tasks.
There is an upside for consumers. Pressing “0” to speak to an agent might become easier to do once drones are programmed to read call agent scripts. A bot can take the call and dispatch a flying drone to make a product exchange on the spot. Talk about customer satisfaction.
The age of the drone will no doubt provide a surge in technology jobs to build, program and maintain drones; however, it is really bad news for the unskilled workers who will be replaced. As time progresses, this may increase the already crippling cost of maintaining an unemployed population. As cuts in entitlement benefits loom, the future is bright for technology and aerospace companies, and especially wealthy consumers, yet dismal for those whose unskilled (and some skilled) jobs drones will replace. It’s the tech boom we’ve been waiting for, and perhaps “drone manufacturing” plants will absorb some of the unemployed workforce.