Amazon has found itself a new ally in its plans to get the Prime Air delivery service off the ground, today announcing a partnership with the UK government to commence trials using its autonomous drones. The agreement will enable Amazon to test out the technologies behind its drone delivery service, an audacious plan that it first announced in December of 2013.
It has been slow-going since Amazon's initial big reveal of its drone intentions, with regulators in the US giving the e-commerce giant little room to move when it comes to conducting real-world trials, let alone actually implementing the service on any scale.
Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) introduced revamped laws around commercial flight, but these were of little value to Amazon (and others in the drone delivery game for that matter) for a few key reasons. It remains illegal for pilots to fly drones out of line of sight, fly them over populated areas and operate more than one at a time.
But the UK government has come to the party in a few ways the US government has not (well, not yet anyway). The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will allow Amazon to fly its drones beyond line of sight in both rural and suburban areas, have one person operate multiple autonomous drones and test out its sensors to see how well they can stop the drones crashing into things.
The trials will help the UK government develop rules around using drones in the logistics industry and move the technology closer to a safe and large-scale roll out.
"We want to enable the innovation that arises from the development of drone technology by safely integrating drones into the overall aviation system," says Tim Johnson, CAA Policy Director. "These tests by Amazon will help inform our policy and future approach"
Amazon approached the UK government last year to enquire about trialing its drone delivery technology. Around the same time, it emerged that the company had been testing its drones at a secret site in British Columbia, Canada, less than a kilometer from the US border. So even if it means casting its eye abroad, the company seems determined to find a way around the red tape.