Amazon.com Inc. on March 19 won regulatory approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for testing of drones that might someday soon deliver packages to customers’ doorsteps.
The FAA approved a permit for Amazon to develop its drones under 400 feet, within sight of the pilot, and ground them after dark. Amazon also has agreed to submit regularly to the FAA information about its test flights.
The FAA recently released details of a new program for drone testing and use that is similar to what Amazon now has authority to test. The FAA issued only a proposal, not final rules, Nevertheless, it should be noted that those new rules would not appear to clear a path for drone deliveries to customers. Such a program would, at a minimum, require access to the skies beyond what a pilot could see. Nevertheless, the new permit offers Amazon an opportunity to continue testing on domestic soil. It hopes that successful testing will pave the way for commercial deliveries. By then, testing of anti-collision software and on-board cameras may allay regulators’ concerns about drones’ operation by pilots not within the vehicle’s’ line of sight.
The company has previously stated that testing would proceed on foreign soil and in friendlier skies. The implication was that those foreign nations would reap the economic benefits of a new industry.