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That Magnificent Man And His Flying Machines

On last Sunday’s broadcast of 60 Minutes, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos startled viewers, and correspondent Charlie Rose, by unveiling a nascent fleet of self-piloted drones that can make aerial deliveries of small orders.\

The R&D project, dubbed Amazon PrimeAir, can ferry purchases weighing up to five pounds as far as 10 miles from distribution centers in 30 minutes without clogging roadways or fouling the air. The electric “octocopters” are capable of air-lifting 86 percent of Amazon’s assortment, and Bezos believes the service could be flight-ready in five years.

While the concept seems far-fetched – raising concerns about air traffic safety not to mention late-payment collection – stranger things have happened. A few months ago physicist Harold White announced that he and a NASA team had begun working on a faster-than-light warp drive engine (yes, like the ones on Star Trek).

Even more startling, yesterday I received my first-ever Sunday delivery from the U.S. Postal Service, sent overnight via Amazon Prime. I seldom receive mail on a timely basis, weekdays or otherwise, and when I do it’s often addressed to my next-door neighbor.

If Bezos can pull off Sunday deliveries with the Post Office, can drones be far behind?