Amazon’s secret drone test site has been found – and photographed – by a journalist for Business Insider, after both Amazon and UK government officials refused to disclose its location.
Amazon announced last month that after months of struggling with the FAA it would open testing for its PrimeAir delivery drones in the UK. The negotiations must have been a long time in coming, as Jeff Bezos praised the UK a year ago for it’s “relaxed” drone regulations. But at a media conference last month, the company refused to disclose the location of the proposed testing site.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was no more forthcoming; according to the Business Insider report, their request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was declined, with the CAA saying that it was prohibited from releasing information that pertained to a specific business or entity.
The enterprising journalist then set out on his own to locate the site, starting out from
Cambridge, home to a major Amazon research and development center. By following rumors put forward by the BBC about the general location, the journalist drove to the area hoping to see drones in the sky; bystanders – who evidently wished to remain anonymous – pointed him in the right direction, identifying the exact field where Amazon tests its drones.
While it took the writer significant effort – and an awkward encounter with a security guard – the test site uncovered is hardly high tech. The drones, two astro turf landing spots and a shed share the space with crops and birds. But Amazon’s efforts to keep the project under wraps only highlights the difficulty that US drone companies face in trying to test new technology; Amazon was forced out of the US, even after spending millions in lobbying efforts, when all that was required was a field.
Seems like they could have found one a bit closer to home.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.