Believe it or not, drones are expected to start making limited deliveries in the U.S. within the next few months.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the news comes after government agencies and the companies looking to utilize drones received pressure from the White House to work together on the goal — especially since countries like Australia, Singapore and Britain are already leading the way on airborne deliveries.
While the process could be delayed if security issues aren’t successfully addressed, some working towards delivery and other drone applications “think they might be ready to operate this summer,” said Jay Merkle, a senior Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air-traffic control official.
In fact, at least 10 FAA-approved pilot programs are scheduled to start by May, with Amazon pushing for safety approval of detailed drone designs, as well as specific operating rules. The company has revealed that it plans to pick up packages weighing a maximum of 5 pounds from distribution centers and deliver them to customers within a 20-mile radius.
And Gur Kimchi, vice president of Amazon’s package-delivery organization called Prime Air, said he was confident that the approvals would be secured by 2019.
Earl Lawrence, who runs the FAA’s drone-integration office, also noted that drone deliveries may be “a lot closer than many of the skeptics think,” adding that “they’re getting ready for full-blown operations.”
Amazon, along with General Electric, Google and other aerospace and Silicon Valley companies, has made plans for a separate, low-altitude traffic-control network, which will be funded and operated by more than 10,000 drone-related companies and 70,000 registered commercial aerial vehicles.
“We face tremendous congestion on the roads, but we have virtually unlimited capacity above us,” said Brian Wynne, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the industry’s largest trade association. “Why wouldn’t we use that?”