FAA gives permission for Amazon’s drones to take off
The Federal Aviation Administration approved Amazon Prime Air as an official “air carrier” last week, enabling the company to get its commercial drone delivery program off the ground in the U.S.
“This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world,” Amazon Prime Air VP David Carbon said in a statement. “We will continue to develop and refine our technology to fully integrate delivery drones into the airspace and work closely with the FAA and other regulators around the world to realize our vision of 30-minute delivery.”
Amazon’s aspirations for drone deliveries have been public knowledge going back to at least 2013 when CEO Jeff Bezos told a national audience on a “60 Minutes” segment that his company had a vision of using drones, more specifically octocopters, to deliver packages of up to five pounds to customers within a 10-mile radius from its expanding network of fulfillment centers in a half-hour or less. Last year, Amazon showed off its latest hexagonal drone model that could cover 15 miles in the same timeframe.
Even with its newly granted status, Amazon is still a ways off from filling the air with its delivery drones. FAA’s approval extends to using its unmanned craft to participate in a trial program overseen by the government.
“This is a long time coming for Amazon,” former FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told The Wall Street Journal. “They are developing real-time data, which is helpful to the [FAA] and gives Amazon a lot of experience in working through the growing pains of getting this business established.”
Amazon is not alone in its view that drones will offer a viable parcel delivery option in the future.
In May, CVS and UPS partnered together to begin delivering prescription medicines to residents of The Villages, Florida’s largest retirement community.
Alphabet-owned Wing Aviation began the first commercial drone delivery pilot program last October in Christianburg, VA, and has since expanded to making local deliveries from Walgreens, FedEx and several small businesses.
UberEats began working with McDonald’s to trial drone delivery in San Diego. The company said the drones had the ability to deliver online orders three times faster than bikes or cars at roughly the same cost as its standard service.
- Drone Delivery? Amazon Moves Closer With F.A.A. Approval – The New York Times
- Amazon Gets U.S. Approval for Drone Fleet, a Package-Delivery Milestone – The Wall Street Journal
- Amazon’s drone delivery ambitions hit key milestone with new FAA approval – GeekWire
- Will COVID-19 quicken drone delivery’s flight to retail? – RetailWire
- Amazon Preps For Retail Drone Wars – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How quickly do you expect widespread drone deliveries in the U.S. to take off now that the FAA has granted permission to Alphabet, Amazon and UPS to engage in trial programs? Does the FAA’s approval suggest that these companies have addressed safety and other concerns that have slowed deployment in the past?