Fawning all over the fantasy of Drone Express

Hobby-Lobby.com CEO, Mark Cleveland sent his comments on the Amazon Drone Express announcement:

I was traveling to Texas when the Charlie Rose segment on ’60 Minutes’ featuring Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ PrimeAir, drone delivery vision caused a sensation. I found this, together with subsequent coverage by mainstream media to be entertaining. Offensive, but entertaining.

Why is this news? Drones could add $13.6 Billion to to the US economy in three years? Ridiculous.

One critical story in USA Today by Rem Rieder was appropriately sarcastic of Rose for his fawning all over the fantasy of Drone Express. Unfortunately, it was buried on page 5B, while the front page highlighted the illegal use of drones as an entrepreneurial opportunity, and oversimplified (if not ignored) issues worth exploring.

As the CEO and owner of Hobby Lobby International, my company has been a pioneer in radio control aircraft. For 50 years, this company set new standards for electric flight. We are happy to be in the multi-rotor “drone” business, but the idea that a network of drones could be the foundation for a delivery network at Amazon is comical. We sell the propellers and manufacture the eRC brand motors, servos and electronic speed controllers preferred by multi-rotor hobbyists and commercial clients. As a service, we build and train operators of multi-rotor platforms for movie producers mentioned in the article. We sell electronics and parts to government contractors who build public safety drones.

Next time Charlie Rose, call for some expert commentary.

The media is silent about the basis for the FAA rules that prohibit the very commercial, for-hire entrepreneurship featured and glamorized by these stories. There is no basis for a $13.6 billion dollar economic impact from drones and no reason to believe drone delivery is practical at all? Where is the story about the FAA and AMA (American Modeling Association) working with industry professionals to protect the sport of flying recreational model aircraft, supporting education in the face of terrorism concerns, safety issues and obvious practical obstacles to a sky filled with drones?

Before I bought Hobby Lobby, I enjoyed a career in transportation and logistics services. America’s largest trucking fleets and truck stop operators bought a wide range of products and support services from the organizations I was proud to be part of. From freight matching to safety and compliance programs, from liability and cargo insurance to expedited document imaging and information processing. From that perspective, as a transportation professional, the Amazon Drone Express story and its treatment is appalling. I am offended for my friends in that industry whose contribution to the economy is diminished by the shallow treatment of this drone topic. These are the companies who actually deliver products for Amazon! Billions of economic value contributed daily…

I helped launch a marine transportation company that was honestly innovative and disruptive, it was honestly news worthy. Where was “60 Minutes” when SeaBridge was trying to change the world? I’m offended.

Yes, now I’m mad. Charlie, don’t bother calling. Maybe I’m testy because I’m still in Texas as I write this. Stuck in Dallas in an ice storm. No delivery drone could get me out of here, but I have a few friends in transportation who could.