Amazon Finally Gets Clearance to Test Delivery Drones

Image via Flickr by Michael Khor

The Federal Aviation Administration (FFA) has been busy lately.
Last month, they decided to lift the ban on commercial air drones, with the stipulation that the pilot must always maintain line-of-sight with his drone. This meant that Amazon did not have authorization to test their delivery drones. Amazon was rightfully upset and decided to fight back by threatening to take their operations overseas to avoid U.S. regulations on air drones. Their threat worked because the FAA just granted Amazon an “experimental airworthiness certificate.”

Several companies have been offered special testing certificates from the FAA with specific rules and regulations in place to maintain the safety and security of the sky. For instance, Amazon’s drone pilots must have at least a private pilot’s certificate and medical certification. This makes sense from a safety standpoint, but it will make it more difficult for Amazon to roll out delivery drones in the future and make it more expensive.

The line-of-sight rule is still in place for all companies that want to test air drones. This is another problem Amazon will have to try and work out because there is no feasible way to implement delivery drones if they cannot fly autonomously and over a meaningful distance. So, Amazon has been granted a step in the right direction, but there is still a lot of obstacles they will have to overcome before delivery drones become a reality.

Typically, safety regulations are rolled out by the government after there is a need. However, the FAA is taking a proactive approach and making sure that the sky stays safe. It’s more than a matter of national security, it’s a new playing ground for logistics companies, and it’s smart to have rules in place to prevent problems from happening in the first place.

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