Amazon’s “Prime Air” concept, which would use drones to deliver Amazon products, is taking back to the skies, and this time with FAA approval. Less than a year after the FAA dashed Amazon’s Prime Air program, aviation authorities are now allowing Amazon to go forward with testing.
Last summer the FAA shot down Amazon’s drone delivery ambitions, and has generally held the stance that drones cannot be flown for any commercial purpose and flyers cannot charge money for their services. So long as a drone is being flown by a hobbyist for his or her own personal joy, however, the drone is essentially considered a model or toy aircraft.
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Amazon Prime Air: FAA approval
The FAA’s move to allow Amazon to even test using drones for product delivery is thus a big step in a different direction, and indicates that the FAA is at least reconsidering its stance on drones and their use for commercial purposes.
For now, however, all of Amazon’s drones will have to remain in sight of their operators, must fly below 400 feet, and can only be flown during the day. Further, “pilots” of the drones will also be required to have a private pilot’s certificate
The FAA appears to be giving the green light in order to gather information. Amazon will be required to document, quantify, and extensively report on its trial runs. What exactly the FAA is looking for is unknown at this point.
Future Of Delivery Drones Still Very Much Up In The Air
The FAA is far from approving delivery drones for widespread commercial use. Fact is, the skies are already relatively crowded, and flocks of delivery drones could pose a hazard. Drones are also relatively new gadgets and their reliability on such a widespread scale could be questionable.
And don’t expect Amazon goods to be delivered via drone anytime soon. The only value drones likely offer to Amazon is if they can be automated, or at the very least controlled remotely. For now the FAA is requiring that the drones remain in eye sight, and it’s not likely that this rule will be changed in any particular hurry.
Still, the commencement of testing by Amazon does mark a significant step forward. Less then a year ago it looked like Amazon’s program was dead in the skies, but now Amazon will at least have a chance to prove itself and make an argument.
Besides Amazon, Alibaba, Google, and UPS are also exploring ways to use drones to deliver goods to customers. Until the FAA rewrites the rule books, however, these concepts will likely remain stuck in the trial stage.