The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved Amazon’s request to begin testing its drones in rural areas of Washington state — a move many see as the first step towards making commercial delivery of packages by drones a reality in the US. Amazon was issued an experimental airworthiness certificate which allows the company to fly its drones for testing, research and training purposes only.
The FAA’s experimental certificate stipulates that Amazon flies its drones below 400 feet and in “visual meteorological conditions”. Drone pilots are required to have a private pilot’s certificate and medical certificate. On top of that, Amazon is also required to provide the FAA with detailed monthly reports on its test flights.
In late 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had expressed his interest in launching a service involving the use of drones to deliver packages directly to customers. The service, called “Prime Air”, will make it possible for the e-commerce giant to deliver packages directly to customers living within 16km of an Amazon distribution center. The entire process –from the moment a customer pays for an order right to delivery — is expected to be less than 30 minutes.
Amazon has already been conducting drone tests outside the United States, in countries that have less stringent aviation regulations and has already been developing drones that can fly autonomously and avoid collision with objects during flight.