Local Flight Gurus Call Amazon Drones a Stunt

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CLEVELAND -- When we were growing up, we were taught to look both ways before crossing the street.

Future generations may have to look up before leaving the house.

They’ll be watching for Amazon delivery drones -- that is, if the company lives up to the hype it created this week.

In an interview with 60 Minutes, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed Prime Air, a system of unmanned drones that he says will take packages straight to a customer's doorstep.

But the folks at FliteTest, a web show that focuses on educating, entertaining and elevating the world of flight, said there would be significant hurdles.

“It’s really, truly great that they’re using this to inspire people, but right now it’s just nothing more than a publicity stunt," said Josh Bixler, the host and operations manager of FliteTest.  "The technology is capable of doing it, but is it safe?  Is it efficient?  And is it practical?  No.”

Alex Zvada, FliteTest's product specialist, added the concept is not cost effective and there are too many flight restrictions.  For example, the drones would not be allowed to fly over roads or near airports.

Bezos acknowledged some of the limitations in his interview, but said FAA rule changes could make the flights legal in four or five years.

He said the "octocopters" Amazon would use are in a testing phase and can only carry packages up to five pounds.  Ninety percent of Amazon's deliveries weigh less than that.

"It’s great that (Amazon's) inspiring people," Bixler said.  "The hobby is wonderful to get into, it’s a really great thing.  It inspires people to do more to defeat the laws of gravity, so props to (Amazon) for doing that.”

The flight technology is currently used in many capacities.  Because it can take a camera where humans can't, it helps farmers monitor crops, firefighters detect hotspots and police map out routes around flooded roads.

It has even been used in South America and Africa to hunt down poachers.

While the FliteTest crew was at Fox 8 News for the interview, they demonstrated a few of their unmanned aerial systems.  Watch the videos above and below for more.

They also plan to test Amazon's proposed system to see how the delivery of Bixler's favorite beverage, a Mountain Dew, might fare.

Kenny Crumpton spent some time with FliteTest in September.  See that video here.

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