What just happened? Does the sound of receiving your Amazon order within 30 minutes of clicking ‘Buy now’ sound appealing? The retail giant has taken a major step toward that goal after the Federal Aviation Administration granted it approval for drone deliveries.
Amazon has been planning automated drone deliveries for almost seven years now, with Jeff Bezos announcing his intentions on 60 Minutes back in 2013. The FAA allowed the company to start testing its drones in US airspace in 2015, but there were limitations to what it could do, including drones remaining within line-of-sight of the pilot and observer.
Now, the FAA has issued a Part 135 air carrier certificate to Amazon for its Prime Air drones, which means it can carry goods on small drones “beyond the visual line of sight” of the operator.
“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,” David Carbon, vice president of Prime Air, 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.”
At the re:MARS AI conference last year, Amazon revealed the latest redesign of its Prime Air delivery drones. The devices can make deliveries up to 12 miles of a warehouse and carry items weighing under 5 pounds to customers within half an hour.
Amazon isn’t the first company granted FAA approval to use delivery drones. Both UPS and Alphabet subsidiary Wing received theirs in 2019. The former has made medical and prescription deliveries, while the latter launched drone deliveries in Christiansburg, Virginia, writes CNN.
It will be a while before delivery drones are populating our skies—the FAA is still creating regulations for their widespread use—but Amazon’s certification moves us closer to that scenario.