Is America Behind in the Drone Revolution?

If you live in China, Finland, or Switzerland, you could be closer to receiving your packages from flying robots. Meanwhile, the FAA is not taking action on drone regulation.


In 2014, Amazon VP Paul Misener wrote this letter to the FAA requesting an exemption to use drone delivery, citing that “it would benefit the public as a whole.” We’re now near the end of 2015 and have yet to get our bulk orders of dog food or bottled water dropped from the sky, but if you live in Finland, you could be closer to receiving your packages from flying robots.

On September 2, the Posti Group got clearance to do a four-day test run of drones from Helsinki and Suomenlinna. Although the first attempt did not land at the correct address, company officials are hoping to streamline the process in order to make drone delivery a real possibility for Finns in the near future.

The FAA is at a crossroads with how to handle the demand for drone technology.

The race of the drones is officially on: Already, Chinese company SF Express delivers 500 packages per day with drones and tech giant Alibaba serves ginger tea to 450 customers via the air-delivery service. This summer, Google’s X lab also announced plans for drones to assist in its same-day delivery service.

Of course, Google faces the same regulatory hurdles as Amazon, so is America behind in the drone revolution? Even the U.S. defense budget has scaled back spending on drone R&D. Only the U.S. Navy spends an increasing amount — this year 22 percent — of its science and tech budget to develop and fund underwater drones.

The FAA is at a crossroads with how to handle the demand for drone technology.

The FAA is at a crossroads with how to handle the demand for drone technology. The interest has ballooned in the past few years among civilians, and the organization has partnered with the Know Before You Fly campaign to spread safety awareness. Just last week, a college student crashed a drone during a Kentucky football game.

The safety issues — both in the sky and on the ground — are certainly real, but the uses for drones are ever expanding. From hurricane tracking to protecting wildlife, drones are providing more access to information and relieving people of dangerous — even impossible — jobs. Whether or not they will be allowed for broader commercial purposes remains unseen.

Innovation expert Elliott Masie says we fall behind in the drone race at our own peril:

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

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Climate change melts Mount Everest's ice, exposing dead bodies of past climbers

Melting ice is turning up bodies on Mt. Everest. This isn't as shocking as you'd think.

Image source: Wikimedia commons
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  • Mt. Everest is the final resting place of about 200 climbers who never made it down.
  • Recent glacial melting, caused by global warming, has made many of the bodies previously hidden by ice and snow visible again.
  • While many bodies are quite visible and well known, others are renowned for being lost for decades.

The bodies that remain in view are often used as waypoints for the living. Some of them are well-known markers that have earned nicknames.

For instance, the image above is of "Green Boots," the unidentified corpse named for its neon footwear. Widely believed to be the body of Tsewang Paljor, the remains are well known as a guide point for passing mountaineers. Perhaps it is too well known, as the climber David Sharp died next to Green Boots while dozens of people walked past him- many presuming he was the famous corpse.

A large area below the summit has earned the discordant nickname "rainbow valley" for being filled with the bright and colorfully dressed corpses of maintainers who never made it back down. The sight of a frozen hand or foot sticking out of the snow is so common that Tshering Pandey Bhote, vice president of Nepal National Mountain Guides Association claimed: "most climbers are mentally prepared to come across such a sight."

Other bodies are famous for not having been found yet. Sandy Irvine, the partner of George Mallory, may have been one of the first two people to reach the summit of Everest a full thirty years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did it. Since they never made it back down, nobody knows just how close to the top they made it.

Mallory's frozen body was found by chance in the nineties without the Kodak cameras he brought up to record the climb with. It has been speculated that Irvine might have them and Kodak says they could still develop the film if the cameras turn up. Circumstantial evidence suggests that they died on the way back down from the summit, Mallory had his goggles off and a photo of his wife he said he'd put at the peak wasn't in his coat. If Irving is found with that camera, history books might need rewriting.

As Everest's glaciers melt its morbid history comes into clearer view. Will the melting cause old bodies to become new landmarks? Will Sandy Irvine be found? Only time will tell.

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