On Monday, outlets like The Atlantic and TechCrunch picked up on the story of the French postal service La Poste Group and drone-maker Parrot planning an unmanned aerial newspaper-and-mail delivery service in the French province of Auvergne. It went like this: The collaborators have apparently already begun pilot-testing the delivery service in Auvergne, using 20 postal workers and 20 drones; if the tests go well, they hope to have the service go province-wide by May.
Unfortunately, Monday was also April 1. It turns out the whole thing was an April Fools' Day hoax. "The post is an April Fools' joke," a Parrot spokesperson told NBC News.
Yet the fact that the story got such pick up speaks to how anxious journalists and the public are to see drones that aren't dropping bombs on things. Civilian drones may soon be making a foothold on the U.S. In 2015, the FAA will make it legal for non-governmental drones to fly the skies. If widely adopted, they could fundamentally change our concept of a “drone." After all, the Internet was first used in the Cold War as a government weapon and the computer was invented as a tool of war. And yet nowadays, the first thing we think of when we hear "Internet" or "computers" is not the military-industrial complex.
Newspaper delivery by drone may be a joke today, but unmanned aerial vehicles may steadily creep their way into non-military life. Let's look at a few concepts for civilian drones.