The surprising place where Amazon is testing its drones

March 30, 2015, 2:56 PM UTC
Courtesy of Amazon

Amazon is testing its drone delivery system at a secret location in Canada, according to The Guardian. The report follows the company’s complaints over U.S. aviation regulators’ speed.

The company is using the undisclosed location to perfect a system CEO Jeff Bezos first revealed at the end of 2013 called Amazon Prime Air. The company’s goal is to use small autonomous drones to deliver customers’ packages with speeds unmatched by ground vehicles. However, it isn’t clear if Amazon’s drone plans would mesh with proposed Federal Aviation Administration regulations governing commercial drone flights.

From The Guardian:

The largest internet retailer in the world is keeping the location of its new test site closely guarded. What can be revealed is that the company’s formidable team of roboticists, software engineers, aeronautics experts and pioneers in remote sensing – including a former NASA astronaut and the designer of the wingtip of the Boeing 787 – are now operating in British Columbia.

The end goal is to utilize what Amazon sees as a slice of virgin airspace – above 200ft, where most buildings end, and below 500ft, where general aviation begins. Into that aerial slice the company plans to pour highly autonomous drones of less than 55lbs, flying through corridors 10 miles or longer at 50mph and carrying payloads of up to 5lbs that account for 86% of all the company’s packages.

Amazon recently received FAA clearance to test some of its delivery drones in the United States. However, Amazon said last week that FAA approval only applied to an aircraft model that was already obsolete.

The FAA is expected to vote on long-delayed commercial drone rules by the end of the year, potentially putting an end to years of uncertainty regarding the practice.

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