Amazon seeks approval for drone tests closer to home

Amazon has sought approval from US regulators to test its new drone-based delivery service close to Seattle.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer
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Credit: Amazon

Amazon has requested permission from the FAA to test drone deliveries just outside of Seattle.

The online retail giant is seeking approval for the tests in its own back yard, according to a letter published to the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) website. On Thursday, the company asked that the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) be permitted to fly outside in order to continue developing the Amazon Prime Air project, which aims to use UAVs to get packages into customer hands "within 30 minutes" of an order.

Within the letter, Amazon says that Prime Air drones have been advanced within the last five months, and tests have included flight ranges and the development of sense‐and‐avoid sensors, as well as the creation of UAVs capable of carrying five-pound loads while travelling at 50 miles per hour. The drones are now eighth and ninth-generation models.

"Current FAA rules allow hobbyists and manufacturers of model aircraft wide latitude in flying their sUAS outdoors. Because Amazon is a commercial enterprise we have been limited to conducting R&D flights indoors or in other countries. Of course, Amazon would prefer to keep the focus, jobs, and investment of this important research and development initiative in the United States by conducting private research and development operations outdoors near Seattle," Amazon says.

"Granting this request will do nothing more than allow Amazon to do what thousands of hobbyists and manufacturers of model aircraft do every day."

Amazon says it has built a team consisting of robotics experts, aeronautical engineers, scientists, sensor experts and even a forms NASA astronaut at its Seattle base in order to test the UAVs in the firm's R&D facility. If the request is granted, Amazon will be permitted to take the drones outside to test, which the firm says will speed up development and research -- rather than making the Prime Air team travel to one of the other six FAA-approved sites scattered across the United States.

Amazon Prime Air was announced in December, but is being held back by UAV regulation issues as US officials try to work out how to regulate and control the use of drones in the commercial sector.

Amazon stated:

"One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today, resulting in enormous benefits for consumers across the nation. We respectfully submit this petition for exemption so that Prime Air can be ready to launch commercial operations as soon as eventually permitted by subsequent FAA action."


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