Amazon asks FAA for go-ahead to test its delivery drones
Amazon is asking regulators to allow the company to test its delivery drones a little bit closer to home.
The online retail giant sent a letter Wednesday asking the Federal Aviation Administration to ease its restrictions on drone-testing in the U.S. in order to allow Amazon to experiment with its unmanned aircraft outdoors near the company’s Seattle headquarters instead of one of the six FAA-approved sites elsewhere in the country.
Amazon’s developmental efforts are part of its plan to one day launch a drone delivery program, called Amazon Prime Air, to carry packages as heavy as five pounds to customers’ homes with drones that can fly as fast as 50 miles per hour. The company’s announcement of the idea gained quite a bit of attention last year, despite an uncertain timeframe for implementation.
The FAA has maintained that unmanned aerial vehicles are only to be used for recreational purposes, and not for commercial reasons, until it is able to come up with rules by which it can regulate the industry. The agency also said last year that it will sanction six outdoor drone-testing sites in the U.S., located in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
But, Amazon (AMZN) wants to move its testing out of its indoor facilities in order to accelerate the development of its aerial fleet and the company is trying to sell the FAA on the idea that its research would ultimately benefit consumers by offering “enormous consumer benefits by delivering packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.”
“One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today, resulting in enormous benefits for consumers across the nation,” the company says in its letter. “We respectfully submit this petition for exemption so that Prime Air can be ready to launch commercial operations as soon as eventually permitted by subsequent FAA action.”