12/03/2013 12:21 EST | Updated 02/02/2014 05:59 EST

Amazon's Micro-Drones Are a Good Thing

Have you ever bought an item and needed it in 30 minutes? Aside from pizza and gas, no, me neither. The newly announced Amazon PrimeAir drone concept is essentially a mini-flying airplane that will deliver small purchases to your door in about half an hour. It may be one of those crazy micro-ideas that makes sense, but not for the reasons that Amazon thinks.

Early reviews complain that the whirring of these toy-like planes will be theft magnets and create noise pollution. Think about how many 18-wheeler transport trucks could be kept off our roads if mini-drones were used instead? How many highways would not need building and consider the resulting potential to create more livable urban spaces. Here in Ontario, commercial vehicles make up almost 15 per cent of all road vehicles. While much of this is beyond the drones 2.3kg weight capacity, reducing reliance on these heavy movers might offer a viable alternative to city congestion.

The commercialization of drones continues a micro trend that is changing how we live and interact with the world around us. The recent announcement of a proposed micro-condo development in Toronto is less of a surprise than you would think. The revolution that brought us 1,000 songs in our pocket, is now defining the very homes we live in and potentially how goods are moved from one place to another. Combine this with a world-wide mass migration to large cities and micro living becomes inevitable.

Surely we should welcome this more modest approach to living. Minimalism, a term first used by architect Mies Van Der Rohe, was focused on simple, functional design, rather than small spaces. The approach, however, is still relevant today.

Toronto's Smart House project boasts condos starting at 289 sq.ft. Meanwhile in Japan, considered to be at the forefront of micro living, 250 sq.ft. spaces have been possible for a generation. More recently, micro living projects have blossomed or are proposed in major cities from New York to Berlin.

Use of interior space is changing too. With the acceptance of e-books, dedicated bookshelves have become giant dust collectors. Iconic UK range maker AGA is in on the act too with its new line of apartment style, mini AGA Companions. Think of it as espresso living. A quick shot of just what you need and no more.

Micro-living means more of us can live in cities. Smaller spaces will force design innovation, making for smarter, energy-efficient solutions that are key to healthier communities. Technologies such as the Amazon drone could help ease road congestion, one of the single most important challenges facing urban planning today. It could also provide major benefit in other areas such as healthcare, where in an emergency time really does count for the delivery of medicines and even live organs.

There are plenty of reasons to dislike Amazon. I too miss the local bookshop and worry about the disappearing Main Street. But the Amazon drone, which is up to five years away from commercialization, could actually be part of the solution in meeting the demand for healthy, vibrant, and stress-reduced cities of the future.

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