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Amazon Prime Air Receives FAA Approval to Expand Drone Delivery

Amazon Drone Delivery

Amazon Prime Air has been granted approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to expand its drone delivery operations.

This approval allows Prime Air to scale its operations to more locations in the United States, bringing the company closer to its goal of delivering packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using highly autonomous drones, the company said in a Thursday (May 30) press release.

The FAA requires commercial drone operators to maintain a line of sight to their drones until a technology is approved that enables drones to fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) — a term that refers to the ability to fly a drone where the remote pilot cannot directly see it with their own eyes, according to the release. This limitation has hindered the expansion of drone operations, particularly in the context of package delivery.

The FAA, along with other regulatory bodies worldwide, has been working on authorizing technologies and creating new rules to enable commercial drones to operate beyond the line of sight of a remote pilot, the release said. Amazon Prime Air’s recent approval for BVLOS operations is a result of their comprehensive BVLOS strategy, which includes the implementation of an onboard detect-and-avoid technology.

Amazon Prime Air’s onboard detect-and-avoid technology allows its drones to detect and avoid obstacles in the air, ensuring the safety of the drone and other aircraft, per the release. Amazon has invested significant time and resources into developing and refining this system, providing detailed engineering information to the FAA to demonstrate the design, operation, maintenance and validation of the technology’s performance.

The deployment of the onboard detect-and-avoid technology allows the company to expand its delivery services while maintaining stringent safety measures, according to the release. The company received an air carrier certificate from the FAA in 2020, authorizing it to operate as an airline and deliver small packages via drone. With the newly granted permission to fly beyond the line of sight, Amazon Prime Air can now expand its delivery area in College Station, Texas, to include more densely populated areas.

Amazon Prime Air’s ultimate vision is to deliver 500 million packages per year by drone by the end of the decade, according to the release.

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