This is now the second time that the Prime Air service by Amazon was given the go-ahead by the FAA. The only issue is that last time, Amazon found that the certificate they received was for an older proto-type that was no longer in use (typical of American bureaucracy). Because it has taken so long for the federal officials to get their act together, Amazon kind of gave up and recently started testing its Prime Air drones at what they claim to be a “top secret” base in Canada.
Fans of Amazon and those of us keen to witness actual domestic testing can now sit around with bated breath. It’s unlikely any legit videos will be released by Amazon so we can probably assume we’ll see a bunch of home videos from people leaning out of their bedroom windows watching as they fly past.
Here is a snippet from FAA’s director of flight standards service John Duncan in his official letter to Amazon:
“This letter is to inform you that we have granted your request for exemption. The exemption would allow the petitioner to operate an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to conduct outdoor research and development testing for Prime Air.”
This letter goes on to outline the FAA’s terms and limitations, Amazon are only allowed to fly the drones up to a maximum of 400 feet and at a maximum speed of 100 mph. Persumably if Amazon break these rules they will be shot down by the Air Force, that seems like a standard American reaction. The letter goes on to state that the drones must remain within line of sight of the operator at all times. Which makes the whole idea pretty defunct really since the main focus of this is to be able to fly them remotely and automatically. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos first announced his vision for Amazon Prime Air, delivery service run automatically by drones that would transport items from company warehouses to front doors in 30 minutes or less, in 2013. This desire is still not quite attainable due to the restrictions imposed upon the scheme by the FAA.
Amazon is also restricted from flying its drones over “densely populated areas.” This means that the whole charade is pretty pointless really. This automated drone delivery service is now restricted to flying at 400 feet, very slowly, over countryside… Not exactly useful. At least the idea is making progress, Amazon just have to keep playing by the rules and go from there. We will be keeping a very interested eye on this here at Gadget HQ.