Amazon made a splash when it hinted that future deliveries could arrive on your doorstep via drone.
But clearly, the world's largest Internet company believes drones will be used much more widely than for mere delivery vehicles: the online retailer just officially launched the Drone Store, a section of the site solely dedicated to the remote-controlled machines, according to Engadget.
The DJI Phantom, an extremely popular remote-controlled multicopter model among beginners, is highlighted on the Amazon page. Some drone experts worry that large companies selling this many drones without a "competency requirement" could cause major problems for the entire industry. (Image source: DJI)
But some drone enthusiasts aren't too happy about the mass sales strategy.
"They are selling hobby-grade equipment ... the problem is they aren't emphasizing education or safety," Mike Fortin, the CEO of CineDrones, told TheBlaze. "I almost think it kind of breeds an irresponsibility because it opens up the floodgates."
Fortin said he considers it a good thing when a large company like Amazon or Google highlights multicopters or drones, because it "gets drones out there to the public" and increases awareness, but he fears more drones in public hands without proper training or education could hurt the overall industry.
"There is no doubt that interest in drones is going to continue to grow, everybody and every company that has the ability or desire to make money in this way is going to try and jump into the arena," he said, "and I think it's great, I mean you can even buy smaller versions of these multicopters at Walmart for $30, and they'll go 50 feet away and that's it, they are for children. But people who shop on Amazon have a little more money and they are going to be a little more irresponsible."
Fortin pointed out that a majority of drone events that have been covered in the news in recent months have been pulled off using DJI Phantoms, the brand highlighted on the front of Amazon's Drone Store.
"It is undoubtedly the most popular multirotor/drone out there ... from people flying them by the Brooklyn Bridge, to flying them over the U.S. Open, they are multiplying daily and they are being sold with reckless abandon to anyone with $500-$1,000 dollars," he said.
Fortin said his main concern is making sure buyers get some kind of education before taking their newly purchased toys to the sky.
"There is no educational requirement; as fun as these things are, there are people who are going to get in trouble and there is this entire industry that has this impending doom and a black cloud over its head because there are people out there flying these things with no regard to safety," he said.
Amazon's site does include links to some safety sites; the Drone Store's front page includes a hot link dubbed "Fly Responsibly," which connects users to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems page and the Federal Aviation Administration's UAS frequently asked questions website.
Amazon's "Fly Responsibly" page also highlights Academy of Model Aeronautics, one of three groups that recently filed a law suit with the FAA in the last two weeks, along with the Drone Pilot Users Group, and a coalition of colleges and universities that have a vested interest in bringing remotely piloted technology forward. Fortin said the groups are actually hoping for more clarity and regulation from the FAA to keep their industry from being bogged down or swept in to general regulations that would apply to the public.
"Make no mistake, we actually want regulations ... the people that are doing this professionally, that isn't the fight we are in with the FAA," Fortin said. "You don't have to take an online course or anything that will say 'you are responsible enough to use this,' ... I think there should be some sort of competency course and the manufacturers should hold some responsibility for that and it would be very, very simple."
"Basically, I think this is a move that they are making just in time for Christmas ... and I hope people decide to take classes to learn how to properly and safely fly these drones," Fortin said. CineDrones is opening a training environment in November, co-sponsored by DJI, to educate aspiring drone pilots.
Besides selling vehicles and accessories from the likes of DJI and Parrot, the storefront also includes buyers' guides, flying tips and previews of hardware coming down the pipeline, according to Engadget.
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