Amazon Wants Early Permission to Launch its Delivery Drones

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

National Journal
Alex Brown
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
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 »
BUT IS HE A YES VOTE?
Cornyn Attempting to Get McCain Back for Health Vote
7 minutes ago
THE LATEST
“TIME HAD RUN OUT” FOR ILL BABY
Charlie Gard’s Parents End Legal Fight
31 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"A lawyer representing Chris Gard and Connie Yates told the High Court 'time had run out' for the baby. Mr. Gard said it meant his 'sweet, gorgeous, innocent little boy' will not reach his first birthday on 4 August. 'To let our beautiful little Charlie go' is 'the hardest thing we'll ever have to do,' his mother said. Charlie's parents said they made the decision because a US doctor had told them it was now too late to give Charlie nucleoside therapy.

Source:
AGENCY SOUGHT TO DELAY IMPLEMENTATION
11 States Sue EPA Over Chemical Rule
33 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

"Eleven states have sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its June decision to delay implementation of a chemical safety rule" until 2019. "The state attorneys general, led by New York’s Eric Schneiderman (D), argue the rule is important for 'protecting our workers, first-responders and communities from chemical accidents' and should be allowed to take affect as planned by the Obama administration’s EPA.

Source:
ULTIMATUM ON ACA
Trump: You’re With Us Or Against Us
51 minutes ago
THE LATEST
$1.6 BILLION SET ASIDE FOR WALL
House Freedom Caucus Chair: Shutdown Over Wall Funding Unlikely
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) on Monday said that funding for President Trump's controversial border wall is unlikely to cause a government shutdown. 'The odds of a government shutdown are very minimal when it comes to that,' the conservative lawmaker said at an event in Washington, D.C. 'I do think the funding of the border wall will happen,' he added. Appropriators have set aside $1.6 billion to fund new wall and fencing sections on parts of the U.S.-Mexico border covering a few dozen miles."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login