Security in light of Drone Delivery

In recent news Amazon’s Prime Air has successfully completed its first drone delivery, and we get to see the actual flight footage … no simulation!

For a number of years we have known of the intentions for companies to experiment with the use of drones for the delivery of parcels. Back in 2015 we saw a video released by Amazon which explained how the process would work, for Amazon Prime Air, noting we could eventual see the delivery of individual packages within 30 minutes of ordering. Since, Amazon has begun its trials for Prime Air’s drone delivery service. Currently trials are being run nearby to Amazon’s drone testing facility near Cambridge.

Amazon released official footage of the first ever successful drone delivery in the middle of December 2016. The video (below) demonstrates a customer who ordered an Amazon TV streaming stick and a bag of popcorn to their own garden. It is reported that the delivery, with no human pilot involved, delivered the package to the customer in 13 minutes from the click for delivery (Bezos, 2016).

(Amazon, 2016)

Currently legislation from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) states that drones cannot be operated within 50 metres of a vessel, vehicle, building or a person. Furthermore, a drone should not be flown “within 150 metres of a congested area” or “open-air assembly”, and should remain in line of sight of the pilot (CAA, 2016, p.49). This conventionally would make it a little difficult when delivering packages and in situations of surveillance. Since implementation of the legislation, some partnerships have been formed to provide permission for example Amazon to be able to fly a drone beyond the line of sight.

Although current testing shows individual packet deliveries … could we start to see a full scale air warehouse delivery service? Well, according to The Guardian (2016) and publicly available US patent documents (United States Patent, 2016) Amazon have in fact filed for a patent in the United States for “airborne fulfilment centres” which could be used to store and quickly deliver items using drone dispatch (demonstrated in the figure below).


(Image Source: United States Patent, 2016)

Is this the future for delivery of our shopping purchases? Although drones could prove to be greener and cheaper logistically … the question is: what can be said for security and what are the dangers behind such a service?

Such services, no doubt, have the wow factor when it comes to technological advancements, but they also have the oh no! factor. Drones, like any technology, are likely to be susceptible to misuse and even cyber attacks. Safety measures are of course put in place, however, as technology advances, so do the crimes, techniques and people that adopt to use them; there is likely no concrete defence mechanism.

There are a number of things to consider in the use of drones. A drone is able to collect a range of data over a wide area using sensors and cameras. For example, to deliver a package in the above video, the drone identifies a particular spot placed in the garden where delivery of the package can take place. But, how much information is collected in this scenario? The video shows us that a lot of data can be collected from the delivery route, the property and potentially the recipient. Are drones a privacy nightmare?

Moreover, drones are becoming a tool for surveillance, with intrusive system development providing more potential advantages than surveillance cameras. However, such technologies also have a number of positives to consider. Legislation from the CAA is implemented to protect people from some of the dangers associated with drone technologies, however, with partnerships made for surveillance, security and advancements in technologies … how can these protective measures still be adhered to?

What do you think, are drones a security nightmare or a positive in our developing climate?


Amazon. (2016) Amazon Prime Air. Available at: (Accessed: 30 December 2016)

Bezos, J. (2016) First-ever #AmazonPrimeAir customer delivery is in the books. 13 min—click to delivery. Available at: (Accessed: 30 December 2016)

CAA. (2016) The Air Navigation: Order and Regulations, CAP 393, s95. Available at: (Accessed: 30 December 2016)

The Guardian. (2016) Amazon plans for giant airship warehouses revealed. Available at: (Accessed: 30 December 2016)

United States Patent. (2016) Airborne fulfillment center utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles for item delivery. Available at: (Accessed: 30 December 2016)

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