Amazon Wants Early Permission to Launch its Delivery Drones

Just don’t expect one at your front porch anytime soon.

National Journal
Alex Brown
July 11, 2014, 7:45 a.m.

Amazon says its much-hyped de­liv­ery drones are ready to hit the skies, and the com­pany is ask­ing the FAA for per­mis­sion to be­gin test­ing out­doors with flights near Seattle.

But it’s still too soon to ex­pect the fly­ing ro­bots to re­place de­liv­ery trucks for a while.

At present, all com­mer­cial drone flights are banned, and the Fed­er­al Avi­ation Ad­min­is­tra­tion has been stingy with ex­emp­tions. Last month, the agency an­nounced it was con­sid­er­ing pro­pos­als by film com­pan­ies to use drones on their sets. The com­pan­ies’ ex­emp­tion re­quests high­lighted the con­tained nature of the shoots, and FAA spokes­man Les Dorr em­phas­ized that the agency would con­sider al­low­ing op­er­a­tions in “con­trolled, low-risk situ­ations.”

Amazon’s ex­emp­tion pro­pos­al takes great care to fall in­to those para­met­ers — mean­ing its drones won’t be buzz­ing any­where near your neigh­bor­hood.

“The op­er­a­tions will be con­duc­ted in a con­fined area over isol­ated Amazon private prop­erty,” reads the doc­u­ment, far away from “any densely pop­u­lated areas.” In ad­di­tion, Amazon said the drones will be with­in the line of site of test­ing per­son­nel at all times, and op­er­at­ors will be FAA-cer­ti­fied private pi­lots.

The com­pany’s cau­tion ex­tends to its flight area, which it says will be geo-fenced to keep drones in tight para­met­ers. Pi­lots will also have a but­ton that im­me­di­ately forces a land­ing if com­mu­nic­a­tion is lost or a situ­ation re­quires it for safety reas­ons.

Amazon re­vealed in its pe­ti­tion that its drones can fly in ex­cess of 50 mph.

For now, Amazon is con­duct­ing its test­ing in­doors, and it plans to make use of the six drone test­ing sites the FAA has es­tab­lished across the coun­try. The com­pany’s pe­ti­tion says it would be “im­prac­tic­al” to lim­it its flights to those areas.

Some have spec­u­lated that large com­pan­ies may prefer to avoid the pub­lic test­ing sites to keep their tech­no­logy out of com­pet­it­ors’ view.

From a policy stand­point, Con­gress has dir­ec­ted the FAA to make rules for com­mer­cial drone in­teg­ra­tion by late next year. But a re­cent In­spect­or Gen­er­al re­port casts doubts on the agency’s like­li­hood of meet­ing that date, say­ing it’s far be­hind sched­ule on al­most all of its dead­lines.

“While it is cer­tain that FAA will ac­com­mod­ate [Un­manned Air­craft Sys­tems] op­er­a­tions at lim­ited loc­a­tions, it is un­cer­tain when and if full in­teg­ra­tion of UAS in­to the [Na­tion­al Air­space Sys­tem] will oc­cur,” said the re­port.

So even if Amazon gets the go-ahead to start test­ing its drones — and the com­pany’s tech­no­logy gets ready to start de­liv­er­ing — it could be a while be­fore the reg­u­la­tions needed to al­low com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions catch up.

What We're Following See More »
PROCEDURES NOT FOLLOWED
Trump Not on Ballot in Minnesota
2 days ago
THE LATEST
MOB RULE?
Trump on Immigration: ‘I Don’t Know, You Tell Me’
3 days ago
THE LATEST

Perhaps Donald Trump can take a plebiscite to solve this whole messy immigration thing. At a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night, Trump essentially admitted he's "stumped," turning to the audience and asking: “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”

Source:
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
4 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
QUESTIONS OVER IMMIGRATION POLICY
Trump Cancels Rallies
5 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Source:
‘STRATEGY AND MESSAGING’
Sean Hannity Is Also Advising Trump
6 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”

Source:
×