Amazon Gains FAA Drone Delivery Approval

The aviation regulator in the United States (the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA) has granted Amazon an important certificate for its drone delivery ambitions.

Amazon now has what’s called a Part 135 air carrier certificate, which must be held before a company begins drone deliveries.

But it will face competition. In April 2019, Google (Wing Aviation) gained the FAA’s air carrier certification to begin home deliveries. UPS has also gained the certification.

FAA approval

That US win for Google came after Wing achieved the launch of the world’s first commercial drone delivery service in Australia earlier in 2019.

Essentially, under US rules, drone firms have to get the FAA’s approval as an airline, if it wants operate drone deliveries in the United States.

This is because current FAA regulations prevent a drone from being flown outside of an operator’s line of sight. Licenses have been granted in the past for automated deliveries for demonstration purposes only, and not for commercial businesses.

These restrictions have led to frustration for drone companies in the past.

In 2015 for example Amazon said it had been testing its “Prime Air” delivery drones in Canada’s British Columbia, after the e-commerce giant had previously criticised the US rules as an overly restrictive to the technology.

But those rules have also been tough for Wing, as it apparently had to create safety manuals and training routines.

It also had to implement a safety hierarchy, in order to get the FAA approval as an airline.

Amazon drones

In June 2019 the FAA granted Amazon a permit to operate its updated drone in the United States.

But now the FAA has approved Amazon’s Prime Air service, which will allow Amazon to actually begin to test deliveries.

The FAA issued a “Part 135 air carrier certificate using unmanned aircraft systems” to Amazon on Saturday, the agency was reported as saying in a number of media outlets.

But Amazon declined to say when or where the tests will take place, CNN reported.

Amazon reportedly said it validated more than 500 safety and efficiency processes as part of its application for the certificate.

UK deliveries

But Amazon has already tested drone deliveries in the United Kingdom – four years ago.

This occurred when Amazon began testing its unmanned delivery drone service in Cambridge in July 2016.

A package was delivered, by drone, in just 13 minutes.

Meanwhile it is reported that UPS has already made medical deliveries at two North Carolina hospitals during the Coronavirus pandemic.

UPS is also reportedly delivering prescriptions in Florida, according to a UPS spokesman.

Wing meanwhile launched its drone delivery in Christiansburg, Virginia, in October 2019.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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