Amazon Is One Step Closer to Delivery by Drone in the US

By: George Hancock Jr.  |  April 13, 2015

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It began on the 9th of July, 2014.  Amazon wrote a persuasive letter to the FAA asking for permission to test drones for parcel delivery, a service called Amazon Air. They explained that they wanted an exemption so they could fly drones just as hobbyists do, under the same rules. They are not hobbyists, so they were subject to separate regulations. The FAA, however, wasn’t easily persuaded and took nearly six months to issue a response. By the time Amazon received the reply, they were ready to test another model of drone. They also said that the FAA’s terms, effective after its initial reply, wouldn’t allow them to operate the drones in the United States.

This week, the FAA gave Amazon the green light for flight testing in the US. However, Amazon’s remote pilots must be able to see the drones at all times, the drones must not reach an altitude of more than 400 feet, and they must not travel at speeds greater than 100mph.

Amazon say they’re making a lot of progress towards a drone that can safely deliver packages. Last summer, Forbes reported that the 9th generation Amazon Air drone was fitted with sense-and-avoid sensors and used algorithms that allow it to see obstacles and automatically avoid collisions.  It is capable of flying at 50mph, and can carry a five pound payload. A technology called geofencing automatically steers drones away from areas where they are forbidden to lawfully fly, and is already being used by hobbyists and Amazon alike.

Amazon Air will employ the drones in order to allow customers to receive products within 30 minutes of having ordered them. At first, of course, only some regions will be eligible. Amazon seem to have taken the lead in driving drone regulation for businesses, being the most visible and outspoken advocates, although Google and others have also become proponents.

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