Duke University researcher: People aren’t ready for delivery drones

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BY TODD FRANKEL Washington Post

When Missy Cummings thinks about self-flying delivery drones – the kind that tech companies have been touting as being just around the corner – she likes to imagine the reaction of her 8-year-old son to a drone landing in her backyard.

“He’d like to throw rocks at it – because it’s there,” said Cummings, a Duke University professor and director of its Humans and Autonomy Lab. “It’s just human nature.”

Others might fire potshots at the unmanned aerial vehicles, just for fun, as they do at rural traffic signs, Cummings said. Pet dogs could be expected to run straight for drones. Curious children would try to grab them. So would adults.

Cummings, one of the nation’s top drone researchers, doesn’t doubt the technology. She believes these autonomous machines already possess the ability to accurately and reliably do their jobs. They could fly today. The technical issues have been solved.

The biggest hurdles – and there’s a colorful assortment of them – are what Cummings calls “socio-technical.”

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