[Update: 5:13 p.m. EDT] NBC News reports that Parrot confirmed the blog post from La Poste Group was a prank. Well, we did say it was possible.
It sounds like the punch line of yet another media-fueled April Fools’ joke, but if it is, it's a good one: the French postal service says it will soon begin using drones to deliver newspapers.
La Poste Group, the country’s leading mail distributor, announced that it has teamed up with Parrot, a Paris-based manufacturer of wireless products, to provide newspaper-via-drone delivery to the homes of volunteer newspaper subscribers in the south-central province of Auvergne.
The pilot program (or non-pilot program, rather) will launch sometime in early May and will utilize the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0, a radio-controlled flying quadcopter unveiled by the company last year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. During the test phase of the program, La Poste Group plans to study the feasibility of expanding the service to general delivery, according to a recent post on its blog.
According to the announcement, 20 drones will be pre-positioned in a post office or mail center close to the customers’ homes. The drones will be operated by 20 postal workers who are in training to learn how to maneuver the unmanned aerial vehicles.
While the idea of temperamental postal workers sending drones into residential neighborhoods may sound unnerving to anyone who has seen recent headlines about President Barack Obama’s controversial drone-strike policy, the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 bears little resemblance to the unmanned combat aircrafts used in military strikes. The foot-long postal drones, according to La Poste Group, have a range of only about 164 feet. But they can easily reach remote areas and are apparently a great way to maneuver over fences and avoid vicious neighborhood dogs.
As drone technology becomes more commonplace, various private industries are hoping to utilize unmanned aerial vehicles. Last year, the Motion Picture Association of America began lobbying the Federal Aviation Administration to allow filmmakers to fly camera-equipped unmanned vehicles for the purposes of getting aerial shots for movies, the Hill’s Brendan Sasso reported in January.
But even as many police departments in the U.S. have begun exploring the use of drones, private companies, as it stands now, are prohibited from operating drones. That will soon change, however, as the FAA is planning to ease restrictions in 2015.
At an rate, while the newspaper industry has enough to worry about, it probably doesn't have to worry about paper boys and girls going obsolete any time soon. And if you still need convincing, check out the demonstration of the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 below, posted by YouTube user SoldierKnowsBest.