Amazon permitted to test drones

Amazon, the online retail giant, has had its request to commence drone testing approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

However, only people who have a pilot’s licence are allowed to test them, and in doing so they must follow strict rules, such as keeping the drones below 400 feet and only flying them during daylight hours. The pilot and their observer must also have a constant line-of-sight with their drone.

They are also required to inform the FAA on the number of flights they conduct each month, as well as any other data which is appropriate.

It signals the end of a lengthy period of waiting for Amazon, having first applied to the FAA in July 2014. Having grown frustrated at the lack of progress, they announced in December that they were looking at alternative countries in which they could trial out ‘Amazon Prime Air’.

The outcome of Amazon Prime Air is hopefully to result in packages of up to 2.3kg to be delivered right to a person’s doorstep via an unmanned aerial drone. This could, it is said, cut down waiting times for packages to as little as 30 minutes in some areas.

The futuristic idea is extremely limited by practical technology however, and therefore extensive testing needs to be done with drones in order for the online giant to even begin to see the outlines of its long term dream.

Unfortunately, this is where, in the past, the FAA dampened these dreams of the future. Strict airspace laws in the USA and in many countries around the world, prohibit a huge amount of drone traffic, and therefore stop Amazon from carrying out the tests they wish to. For example, there is a blanket ban on using drones for commercial use in the USA. The strict laws, however, have now been relaxed to enable some testing to be carried out.

This could lead the way for more drone testing and flying to take place, as the idea of using drones in such a way continues to gain popularity and publicity, and more pressure is put on the FAA to revolutionise their rulings, and find a way to bring them into modern times.

Amazon’s vice-president of global public policy stated at the time: “Without approval of our testing in the United States, we will be forced to continue expanding our Prime Aid R&D footprint abroad.”