Amazon gets OK from U.S. regulators for new drone tests

After complaining that U.S. regulators were dragging their feet when it comes to approving drone tests, Amazon received the go-ahead to begin new outdoor tests of its Prime Air drones. The approval covers a period of two years.

The decision could pave the way for other companies interested in drone delivery, The Washington Post notes.

Amazon wants to use drones to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less. (Image source: Amazon)

Of course, certain restrictions apply. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Amazon's drones must not fly higher than 400 feet or faster than 100 miles per hour, and closed-set motion picture and television filming are not allowed. The unmanned aircraft (UA) must operate within visual line of sight at all times, and operations, which must be conducted over private or controlled-access property with the property owner's permission, are not permitted at night.

Amazon had asked for permission to test Prime Air, which it wants to use as a new delivery system to get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using aerial vehicles. Amazon says it's an invention that it is "incredibly passionate" about. "We believe customers will love it, and we are committed to making Prime Air available to customers worldwide as soon as we are permitted to do so," the company said in a July 9, 2014, letter to the FAA.

But by the time federal regulators approved Amazon's initial request, the technology it was proposing was obsolete and the company had moved onto another version. During a U.S. Senate hearing last month, Amazon complained that getting clearance for drone testing happens a lot faster in other countries. It re-applied for a permit for the newer drone technology.

The FAA's approval April 8 covers a period of two years, so it shouldn't run into that problem again in the near term.

The FAA says its new "summary grant" process should speed up exemption approvals for many commercial unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operators. Although the FAA still reviews each Section 333 petition individually, the agency can issue a summary grant when it finds it has already granted a previous exemption similar to the new request. Summary grants are more efficient because they don't need to repeat the analysis performed for the original exemption on which they are based, according to the FAA.

For more:
see The Washington Post story
see this Engadget article

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