Former Walmart General Counsel Discusses the Future of Drone Delivery Services and AERO Foundation

Q&A with Aaron Crews: Current Text IQ General Counsel & VP of Strategy, Former Walmart Senior Associate General Counsel & Global Head of E-Discovery discusses the future of drone delivery services

AERO Token
Oct 23, 2017 · 5 min read
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Aaron Crews, general counsel and vice president of strategy at TextIQ, photographed in their Manhattan office on August 30, 2017. Photo: David Handschuh/ALM

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is not only one of the largest retailers and employers in the world, but has a logistical supply chain and distribution infrastructure that rivals nation state capabilities. Aaron Crews is currently General Counsel and Vice President of Strategy for Text IQ and previously served as Senior Associate General Counsel, Global Head of E-Discovery and technologist for Walmart. Aaron has a long track record of utilizing technology to address some of the most complex business and legal issues relevant to retailers worldwide.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the commercial application of drones. Are direct-to-consumer drone delivery services realistic in the immediate future?

In 2016, Iceland’s largest online retailer partnered with a drone service provider to launch direct-to-consumer parcel delivery within the capital of Reykjavik. In 2017, an American company successfully launched and integrated a fully autonomous drone delivery system in Switzerland to expedite the delivery of medical supplies and blood products between hospitals. Similarly, in Rwanda, there’s a drone delivery system for delivering blood and vaccines on a national scale.

Moreover, the Chinese e-commerce company is currently building 150 drone operation sites and is reportedly already operating over 100 routes over the mainland this year. claims their drone delivery operations will initially benefit rural population the most and will lower the cost of freight delivery by 70%.

If the technology exists, why hasn’t commercial drone delivery launched for major retailers within the US?

There’s a fundamental legal issue surrounding why major e-commerce retailers are not yet delivering packages to American consumers via drone. In the U.S. drone operators need permission to fly at low-altitude over private property without trespassing, short of an eminent domain action.

As the Supreme Court articulated, compelling low-altitude access and use of airspace over private property would be a form of taking that would subtract from the enjoyment, use and control of one’s property: United States v. Causby, 328 U.S. 256 (1946). See Navigable Airspace for Drones: Private Property Rights and Regulated Airspace.

While regulators can allow low-altitude drone flight over private property, they cannot compel the property owner to grant consent. I found AERO Foundation’s voluntary participation approach, where property owners can earn passive income, coupled with utilizing the blockchain to reserve flight routes, to be an elegant solution to a tricky and significant legal issue.

What’s the FAA’s regulatory posture?

What do you find interesting about the blockchain and how is it relevant to AERO and commercial drone services?

For example, right now if you wanted to make an asset available for rent, you’d have to go through an intermediary to advertise availability and then either use a third party to reserve its use and process payment (ex. Uber or AirBnb) or manage the reservation and payment yourself (ex. Craigslist). Therefore, even in the best case scenario, it’s still a relatively burdensome process that can certainly be classified as non-trivial.

Conversely, in a Peer-to-Peer blockchain-based economy, all parties can go directly to the blockchain to notify all network participants and interested parties that their asset or service is available. Better yet, the actual reserving and compensation of parties can be automated if done correctly in a blockchain-based economy.

How could the blockchain help AERO or make airspace navigable for drones?

AERO addresses the missing technological and legal components necessary to enable and easily facilitate the consent of property owners for low-altitude drone flight over private property.

By utilizing the blockchain, AERO provides a voluntary and relatively easy way for property owners to generate passive income, while providing available flight routes for drone service providers.

What’s the benefit of direct to consumer drone delivery? Is it faster, cheaper or just cool?

The last few miles from distributor to consumer could in the very near term be rapidly expedited. Thus, drone delivery isn’t just practical, it will redefine expectations and dramatically lower costs for a majority of items. According to the NYTimes, 86% of parcels are under 5 lbs. and can be handled with existing drone technology.

Besides faster and cheaper parcel delivery, how else do you think drone delivery could impact consumers?

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AERO Token: Enabling the Drone Superhighway Using the Blockchain

Elijah McClain, George Floyd, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, Atatiana Jefferson, Tamir Rice, Bettie Jones, Botham Jean

AERO Token

Written by

AERO Token: Enabling the Drone Superhighway Using the Blockchain

Elijah McClain, George Floyd, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, Atatiana Jefferson, Tamir Rice, Bettie Jones, Botham Jean

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