Drones

Amazon cleared to put its delivery drones to the test

Amazon cleared to put its deli...
Today's development will certainly be welcome news for Amazon, but won't have Jeff Bezos selling off his delivery trucks just yet
Today's development will certainly be welcome news for Amazon, but won't have Jeff Bezos selling off his delivery trucks just yet
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Today's development will certainly be welcome news for Amazon, but won't have Jeff Bezos selling off his delivery trucks just yet
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Today's development will certainly be welcome news for Amazon, but won't have Jeff Bezos selling off his delivery trucks just yet

It's been more than a year in the making, but it seems that the regulatory wheels are beginning to turn on Amazon's bold plan for drone deliveries. The FAA has today granted the online retailer permission to start testing its unmanned aircraft as part of its Prime Air initiative. It does come with its share of caveats, however, so don't expect a box set to be air-delivered to your doorstep anytime soon.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos first unveiled plans to use drones to deliver small packages in late 2013, saying that "we hope the FAA's rules will be in place as early as sometime in 2015. We will be ready at that time." But since then, Amazon has played the waiting game as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revamps its regulations for unmanned aerial vehicles.

With progress slow-going, the FAA has faced mounting pressure from many quarters, but in particular Amazon, which has threatened to take its drone operations off-shore. This sentiment boiled over in December as the FAA gave four companies permission to use drones in commercial operations, adding to the four Hollywood companies who had been cleared to use them for film production in September. Amazon made public a letter to the FAA claiming that "we are very concerned that our needs for testing operations have not yet been accommodated."

So today's development will certainly be welcome news, but won't have Bezos selling off his delivery trucks for high-flying counterparts just yet. The FAA has issued Amazon with what it calls an "experimental airworthiness certificate." The rules laid out by the certificate are in line with what we've come to expect from the earlier approvals granted by the FAA, and also the set of proposed guidelines it floated last month.

Amazon's drones must be flown at 400 ft (122 m) or lower during daylight in clear conditions. The drones must remain within the line-of-sight of the pilot and he or she must have a private pilot's certificate and current medical certification. As part of the approval, Amazon is also required to give the FAA monthly reports on its operations. This is to include the number of flights, pilot duty log times, any technical mishaps, deviations from air traffic controllers' instructions and breakdowns in communications links.

Source: FAA

8 comments
Lance Nadolne
Jeff Bezos is consistently thinking of next moves. He is making Amazon the most interesting company. As other articles have mentioned, he is our next Steve Jobs.
drender
This is a cute idea, but its practicality seems very limited.
Call Me Wally
I can understand the "Under 400 foot" thing, but the "within the line-of-sight of the pilot" thing is typical of lawmaker ignorance. First off, no person could land a 36" drone a mile away with any accuracy. Even then, Amazon would have to make more than a MILLION droneports and hire over a MILLION licensed pilots per daylight shift to cover most of America. Sound practical or make sense to you? Didn't think so. Although Amazon has never discussed it with me, I would think that the reason for the drones would be to streamline the whole "from order to consumer" process by just scanning the shipping label, load the whatever into the drone, press the GO button, let technology, software and GPS make the delivery. Return/recharge/repeat. No pilot needed. I would think that the EPA would be tickled pink over the potential benefit of distributing a mass amount of goods via something that doesn't burn 3-4 dollar a gallon fossil fuels. Smaller carbon footprint? Sounds good to me. That's the way to suck the life out of innovation and lead America to become a third rate technical loser FAA! Mission accomplished!
kman
^^ Wally, this is just for the preliminary TESTING phase. Before this permission was granted, they couldn't even test their drones in urban environments. Now they can test. Actual implementation of course would require dropping the pilot requirement, etc., but that's a long way off.
Lbrewer42
And we REALLY think the government is going to allow this to become commonplace since it will kill their PO business even more? Government mismanagement of the PO will likely be the hidden excuse behind killing this idea.
If the PO were private - it would be better than ever and things like the drones would be welcome - if not already implemented by the PO.
Jeffry Mercer
I guess the government will just have to get out of the mail business then, or buy into this new way that amazon is pushing for, as well. I saw a video on here a while ago that had a drone with a android phone running it's automation capabilities, and from all the sensors it had on it it new where it was in space. The guy showed him pushing the drone towards the wall, and it stopped just before hitting the wall. He also pulled the thing down 3 feet, and it returned right to ware it was just at previous. It seems that automation capabilities like this are going to be a eventuality, no matter what, the government tries to do to hinder it becoming a reality. You forget the government is run by big companies, because they get paid off by them eventually.
chadoly
you can just see it some bozo sitting on the roof with his shotgun. or his new microwave gun
open season on drones
kellory
With any new tool, there is the potential for misuse. Yes, it might be interesting to have a drone (or quadrocopter) delivery service, but then payload is very small, and the flight times are on average @20minutes between recharges. However, that would be just right for that phone controller to be taking streaming video and uploading directly to the web from your daughter's second bedroom window. They are being used now to harrass hunters in the field, in a perfectly legal and time honored tradition. They are being used to chase game animals, and flown over private property to intrude and spy. Current law restricts carrying any payload, because a malfunction could drop that package on someone. At 27' per sec/per sec, even a penny dropped from the empire state building, is thought to be fatal. It is no joke, when carrying cargo over people. Would you walk under a service crane, or forklift? Of course not, why? Because of the possibility of failure. Is it likely? No, it is a very remote chance of failure, but no sane man will do it, and there are laws about not taking ANY LOAD over people for that reason. You think the load is too small for there to be any danger? Well, a 12ga. Deer slug is just one ounce of lead. It is the speed delivered that makes it dangerous, and the longer the fall, the higher that speed will be, until it reaches it' s terminal velocity.