Monday, 23 March 2015

Amazon Drone to fly soon for delivery

In December 2013, Amazon announced with great fanfare a radical concept for delivery: drones, on autopilot, carrying small packages right to customer’s doorsteps. While the idea was not without its critics, it looked like a tangible future for commercial drones. Yesterday, the FAA announced that they are finally willing to let Amazon test their drones within the United States, provided that Amazon doesn’t test anything meaningful or innovative about the drone delivery concept at all.

Amazon Drone

The experimental airworthiness certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) won't let Amazon start shipping books and other small packages to every customer's door via drone today, but it is a step in that direction. The FAA on Thursday said Amazon can fly its drones only during the day, within 400 feet of the ground and within sight of an operator who has a traditional pilot’s license.

Amazon isn't the only company that can start experimenting with drones. The FAA has issued over 40 commercial waivers already. But, the certificate given to Amazon is broader in scope the waivers issued to other companies. Amazon is one step closer to launching its drone delivery service. The Federal Aviation Administration recently approved the retail company to fly its unmanned aircraft on a trial basis.

They’re light, fast and sturdy enough to inspect bridges, monitor crops and assist in rescue missions. Now add Amazon’s ambitious “Prime Air” drone service to that list. The Federal Aviation Administration just approved the retail company’s unmanned aircraft to take flight.

In a written statement, one of the company’s vice presidents said, “We are committed to realizing our vision for Prime Air and are prepared to deploy where we have the regulatory support we need.”

Also read: Early investors in Indian e-commerce book huge profits

But the online retailer’s license is only on a trial basis. FAA regulations allow commercial drones under 55 pounds flown up to 100 miles per hour. They can only hit the skies in daylight hours and the operator has to be at least 17 years old with what the FAA is calling an “Unmanned Aircraft Operation Certificate.”

This all comes as a recreational drone crash-landed on the White House lawn back in January, putting Secret Service agents on edge.

“Like any new technology, the technology can also be misused so we just have to make sure that as we’re enabling the technology to be used, such as unmanned aircraft systems, we’re also looking at how they can be misused,” said UMD UAS test site director Matt Scassero.

Now with Amazon’s drone service greenlighted, the FAA has approved licenses for nearly 50 other purposes, like movie-making, inspections and aerial photography.

Amazon first ignited interest in its drone delivery service back in 2013. Since then, the company has been a main supporter of faster regulatory action in support of drones.

Back in 2012, Congress ordered the FAA to integrate drones into the skies with passenger planes by September of this year. Experts say the agency is on track to meet that deadline.