Amazon.com Inc. continues to lobby for expansion of testing of drones as a future delivery tool. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently approved limited testing of the new technology, but Amazon is pushing for even more flexibility in testing the technology that might one day offer customers delivery within an hour for a dollar.
Amazon Cleared for Testing
Amazon recently received approval of plans for testing drones. Prime Air will take to the skies in controlled, small-scale tests carrying items for delivery. The FAA approved on April 8 an exemption that will allow Amazon to test its Prime Air drone fleet. Amazon’s exemption specifically permits testing of package delivery. The FAA approved another 29 applications, mostly for film production and data collection.
Amazons’ application faced objections from the airline and agricultural pilots associations. In giving Prime Air the green light, the FAA decided to adopt idea proposed by a coalition of unmanned flight organizations. The coalition concluded Amazon’s drones were less risky than larger unmanned vehicles used for defense and other aerospace purposes. The coalition supported Amazon’s testing subject to limitations such as location, limited site access, two-way communications capabilities, and pilot experience.
The testing parameters are far too narrow to test delivery as contemplated by Amazon. The exemption granted to Amazon requires that its drones weight less than 55 pounds including payload, do not exceed speeds of 100 miles per hour, be operated at an altitude no higher than 400 feet above ground level, and be within the unaided sight of human controllers holding the minimum of a recreational or sport pilot certified, along with a valid driver’s license in lieu of a third class medical certificate.
Amazon’s proposed use of drones could mean delivery of small packages locally for about $1 – – a fraction of existing same-day delivery options, according to a study by a financial research company.