After an eight-months waiting game, retail giant Amazon has cleared the first hurdle to launch its much-heralded drone delivery service.
On March 19, the FAA granted Amazon an experimental airworthiness certificate to the company’s logistics division. The certificate allows Amazon to fly drones for development and crew training. The retailer first applied in July after announcing its plans to get into the UAV delivery biz in 2013.
The agency stated that in granting the certificate, Amazon must abide by several requirements.
- All flight operations must be conducted at 400 feet or below during daylight hours in visual meteorological conditions.
- The drones must always remain within visual line-of-sight of the pilot and observer.
- UAV pilots flying Amazon drones must have at least a private pilot’s certificate and current medical certification.
- Amazon must provide monthly data to the FAA and report the number of flights conducted, pilot duty time per flight, unusual hardware or software malfunctions, any deviations from air traffic controllers’ instructions, and any unintended loss of communication links.
“We will effectively operate our own private model airplane field, but with additional safeguards that go far beyond those
The FAA has long‐held provide a sufficient level of safety for public model airplane fields,” Paul Misener, Amazon’s Vice President of Global Public Policy, said in the company’s application letter.
The certification request garnered strong support from the UAV community. In August, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), sent a letter of support to the FAA (download PDF).
“The FAA should actively work with Amazon and others to look for ways to allow for limited commercial use of UAS today, and get on with rulemaking,” former AUVSI president and CEO Michael Toscano said in August, adding “Amazon says 86% of the products they sell weigh less than five pounds, which will allow them to be used on their small unmanned delivery aircraft … there is a compelling need for the FAA to allow Amazon to test their systems to ensure the next evolution in package delivery happens in the U.S. first”
The FAA’s move may have political ramifications — government officials can claim victory in keeping R&D and jobs within U.S. borders. Last year, Amazon threatened to perform all UAV testing and subsequent delivery service overseas if the FAA refused its request.
Upon successful testing, Amazon is expected to deploy delivery drones with its proposed Prime Air service which the company says will result in 30-minute deliveries.
“One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today, resulting in enormous benefits for consumers across the nation,” Misener said.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
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