Amazon drones are coming to town.  Some locals want to shoot them.

Amazon drones are coming to town. Some locals want to shoot them.

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LOCKEFORD, California – Six months ago, Amazon contacted local authorities in this rural town to inform them that it plans to launch its long-awaited drone delivery service here.

But since last week – when Amazon released the news – many residents of unincorporated Lockford, with their vineyards, orchards and ranches, he still didn’t know about the plan.

An 82-year-old woman who lives directly across the road from drones under construction with her dog, horse, two ponies and a small herd of goats said no one mentioned Amazon’s plans to her. The same was true for two brothers busy turning a neighboring winery they recently bought into a marijuana farm.

A man at a local archery shop jokingly commented, “Practice shooting!” When he found out.

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When Amazon announced last week that it would start delivering packages via drones for the first time in the United States, the news surprised many Lockford residents. Amazon often engages in its projects in secret, using code names and secretly negotiating tax subsidies, whether building data centers, corporate headquarters or new fulfillment centers. But the great discovery sometimes comes as a shock to the local population, causing quarrels between the technology giant and the communities it wants to sue.

In recent years, the suburbs of Denver, the island community on the Canadian border of New York and a small town in Massachusetts have gathered to stop the development of the Amazon after the news became public. In 2018, after a process of silence to choose New York as one of its other locations for headquarters, he rejected the plan due to the great rejection. (Amazon is in the process of building its so-called HK2 in Arlington, VA)

The team that chose Lockford liked it because of the weather, rural topography, access to the highway and the existing customer base, a former Amazon employee told the Washington Post, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern for revenge. But the team also thought it was a good choice because there would not be too much bureaucracy.

“He felt like a cowboy and did what you wanted there,” the person said.

The company said it began contacting locals within four miles of the site last week to find out who was interested in trying out the program. Those who apply will be able to choose between items under five pounds that are stored in a small nearby warehouse. The drones, which are 6.5 feet wide and nearly 4 meters high, should drop packages to a predetermined location from a height of about four feet.

There have been some warnings: San Joaquin County, where Lockford is located, is still processing its permits, and the company still needs to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

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But not all residents are ready to set up a welcome rug.

“They are violating our privacy,” said Tim Blyton, a cement contractor who lives near Lockford, who said he once threatened to shoot down a neighbor’s drone that was flying over his house.

He is worried about the Amazon cameras they see in his backyard. But Blighton added that he would not be interested in any delivery from Amazon, which he said would “destroy our moms and pop stores”.

“I’m not an Amazon,” Blighton said. “I think it’s going to ruin everything for us.”

Amazon is cooperating with local authorities in Lockford, said the spokesman of the company Av Zamit, and is working on obtaining permits. The company’s drone “does not take pictures from below when it flies to the destination and back” and does not use this information for any other purpose. The drone project will also add new jobs.

One day they will see Prime Air drones be as normal as Prime delivery trucks, he said. “However,” he added, “if someone shot down a drone, it would break the law.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, made a big shock when he announced a drone delivery at 60 Minutes 2013. But the company struggled to keep its promise, so far making only one drone delivery in Cambridge, England 2016 .before the team was disbanded. In March 2020, Bloomberg reported, Amazon hired David Carbon from Boeing to speed up the project, and some employees clashed with his approach. Former flight aide Chadie Skeet has spoken out publicly about his safety concerns over Prime Air, which has experienced multiple drone crashes during test flights, including one in Oregon that caused a 25-acre fire.

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Amazon has tried to circumvent regulations and avoid FAA inspections after accidents, Business Insider reported last month. Asked if clashes between the agency and the company over its Oregon test site could delay the launch of the drone, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said that the agency “does not comment on certification projects pending or talks with companies.”

Amazon’s Zamit said the company’s drones were tested in a “closed, private facility” and that “no one has ever been injured or injured as a result of these flights.” Lockeford’s deliveries will not be experimental, he added, and will be offered under an FAA certificate from the airline to ensure the program meets the agency’s “high security bar”. The company also works closely with local authorities.

A former Amazon employee familiar with Prime Air said the team is under pressure to make some deliveries this year, or the future of the project could be jeopardized. Amazon denies it this.

Some Lockford residents said it might make sense to them. “I have a lot of space, why not?” Said Tracy Clark, a local Amazon customer who said he orders almost everything from the site.

Pam Coleman, who lives on a property of almost 30 acres not far from Lockford, said the nearest town has only a few amenities. “Maybe it would be better in such places,” she said.

Others were mixed. Greg Baroni is an Amazon customer who lives close enough to sign up for drone delivery. But he said that Amazon delivers packages to his house quite quickly.

“I don’t think drones are needed,” he told The Post. “They take away jobs from people who ask.”

Like Blyton, the idea of ​​drones made him uncomfortable. “I don’t want drones flying around my house – we live in the countryside,” he said.

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The property, which will include Prime Air, which Amazon leases from a local concrete manufacturer, has already been zoned for distribution, says Stefani Joder, a spokeswoman for the district. The county said the company is currently in the process of obtaining appropriate building and business permits, adding that it will also undergo an environmental audit through the FAA.

Amazon has a team that liaises with local authorities to ensure the community is open to its presence, a former employee said. It can also be a challenge to convince customers to participate in a program that limits what they can order and requires coordination with Amazon.

“It’s a pain,” the employee added. Amazon spokesman Zamit said that customers will be able to order packages that will be delivered to the drones in the normal way.

Amazon also announced plans to deliver drones to College Station in Texas, where the city council is due to vote on the plan on July 14. But at a zoning commission meeting last week, members of the public expressed safety and noise concerns, including resident Amina Alikhan, who said that if Lockford was open to attempting drone delivery first, College Station should “let them be the test site.” for testing “.

But in Lockford, many residents were surprised to hear that their rural agricultural town had been chosen for the Amazon program.

“I have a large amount of cattle and horses, and a drone could easily scare animals,” said Najdin Koster. “Horses will run straight through barbed wire, or indeed any fence, when they think they are in danger. I saw horses being killed over a flying balloon, I would hate to see the damage a flying drone would cause by coming into their area. ”

“Lockeford is an old school farm town consisting mostly of old ranches,” she continued. “So the idea of ​​this new technology invading your privacy while potentially scaring your animals is pretty intimidating to many here.

Amazon’s Zammit said the company was working to reduce noise and would “work hard to minimize any potential disruption.”

Lockford resident Joy Huffman said that her daughters order so much from Amazon that a package is delivered to her almost every day. However, she is not sure she would volunteer for the program. “I wonder how it will work,” she said. “Let’s hope the drone puts him in the right yard.”

“I don’t like people being robbed of their jobs,” said Jennifer Hoy, who moved to Lockford from nearby Lodi about a year ago. “But I want to check it out – I’d like to see what it looks like.

But there are also those for whom Amazon, whether delivered by humans or by drone, is not the mover.

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“My stepson worked for them, they don’t treat their employees properly,” said Jay Jiminez, who stopped to pick up sausage at Lockford on Wednesday afternoon. “If I go to order something and see it says Amazon, I pass by.

The man who watered his garden right down the road from Amazon’s imminent drone launch was also concerned about Amazon’s poor reputation as an employer.

The man, who declined to give his name, said his wife regularly orders from Amazon. Asked if he would sign up for the drone experiment, he shook his head.

“They already have too much money and too much power,” he added.

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