Science and Tech


Amazon Asks FAA For Permission To Test Fly Delivery Drones

Amazon has requested an exemption from the FAA's no-commercial-drone policy in order to give its delivery drones a flight test.
Posted at 10:40 PM, Jul 11, 2014

Amazon is getting serious about its plans to fill the skies with delivery drones. The tech company just sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration requesting special permission to test its unmanned flying robots.

Amazon's letter asks the FAA to let the company fly its drones at altitudes up to 400 feet on its Seattle campus. The company notes, "Granting this request will do nothing more than allow Amazon to do what thousands of hobbyists and manufacturers of model aircraft do every day."

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos first unveiled his plan for delivering small packages via drone during a 60 Minutes special last year, and the company's thirty minute drone delivery concept quickly captured the public imagination.

But the FAA was just as quick to inform everyone commercial drones are grounded until the agency comes up with a set of regulations for their use. The agency has laid out a roadmap for developing those regulations, and recently selected six sites for drone testing. (Via Voice of America)

Those regulations are still five or more years away from completion, though, and Amazon doesn't want to wait around. The company's already facing some prospective competition from DHL and UPS. (Via The Verge, Deutsche Welle)

Amazon's letter reveals a few more tidbits of info about their drones, which apparently weigh under 55 pounds and can travel at speeds over 50 miles per hour.

Amazon's also on their eighth or ninth iteration of drone, which a Forbes contributor says indicates the company's already miles ahead of the FAA when it comes to drones. "Imagine the restriction on innovation that would have occurred if Amazon had to stop testing and researching while they waited for a bureaucrat at the FAA to approve each new version of their drone."

And The Washington Post notes Amazon's letter contains the hint of a threat that the company could take their business elsewhere. "Other countries where drone policy isn't as strict have seen a surge of economic activity surrounding the technology. ... If the petition is rejected, well … draw your own conclusions."

The FAA has previously granted similar exemptions to its no-fly policy for drones, allowing limited drone use for filmmaking and agricultural purposes.