Merchant Innovation

Feds Give Amazon Approval To Test Delivery Drones

Amazon’s battle with U.S. regulators to test its delivery drones is finally moving forward in the eCommerce giant’s favor, Reuters reported last week.

Amazon was initially approved by the Federal Aviation Administration in March to move forward with developing its drones, but Amazon’s plans were grounded shortly after when the FAA put a stop to that plan — putting Amazon’s drone delivery future in limbo. In March, when the plans were tentatively approved, the FAA’s certificate required that Amazon record the number of flights, the pilot of duty and if there were any malfunctions during the routes.

Last week, however, the FAA granted Amazon permission to move forward with its drone testing stage. The requirements dictated by the FAA indicate that Amazon must keep drones flying no higher than 400 feet and speeds cannot exceed 100 mph. Amazon’s future plans for drone delivery, if fully approved, include delivery of packages that are traveling 10 miles or more from its distribution centers.

“We’re pleased the FAA has granted our petition for this stage of R&D experimentation, and we look forward to working with the agency for permission to deliver Prime Air service to customers in the United States safely and soon,” Paul Misener, Amazon’s Vice President of Global Public Policy, wrote in an emailed statement following the decision.

The initial FAA guidelines proposed in February require commercial drones to be operated in direct line-of-sight of operators, flying no higher than 500 feet and close enough that an operator can see the drone continuously with no visual aids beyond prescription glasses or contact lenses. That cuts out both autonomous drones and those operated using an onboard camera. Amazon has been looking into Prime Air drone delivery service for small packages.

Those proposals also require that drones wouldn’t be allowed to fly over people or at night, or to drop anything while in flight. Drones would also be limited to a top speed of 100 miles per hour and would require an FAA-certified operator who could only fly one drone at a time — but the operator wouldn’t have to be a trained aircraft pilot.

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