Amazon received a bit of good news heading into the weekend as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued the company an experimental airworthiness certificate. This coveted document allows the e-commerce giant to research, develop and test its proposed drone delivery service known as Amazon Prime Air.
While no doubt seen as a step forward, Amazon will need to adhere to plenty of rules and regulations as it tests its planned service outdoors.
As per the certificate, Amazon must perform all flight tests at an altitude of 400 feet or less during daylight hours in what the FAA calls meteorological conditions. What’s more, a Prime drone must remain within line-of sight of its pilot and observer. Every drone pilot must have at least a private pilot’s certificate as well as up-to-date medical certification.
It doesn’t end here, however, as Amazon is further required to provide monthly data to the FAA including the number of flights conducted, pilot time per flight, any hardware or software abnormalities / malfunctions, any unexpected loss of communication with a drone and any deviations from air traffic controllers’ instructions.
Amazon revealed its aerial ambitions in a 60 Minutes segment in early December of 2013. While some thought the program was a joke, Amazon was indeed serious about using drones to deliver packages to customers. Its plans were sidelined by the FAA last June but after Amazon threatened to take its research overseas, the FAA has clearly had a change of heart.
Given the current restrictions (namely, line-of-sight operation), it's hard to see how Amazon or any other company could effectively use drones to deliver packages to customers.