Amazon Prime Air has cleared a regulatory hurdle, and moved the online store giant one step closer to dropping packages outside your door with drones.
The Federal Aviation Administration this weekend approved Amazon’s Prime Air arm as an official “carrier,”
Amazon Prime Air’s concept uses autonomously [unmanned aircraft systems] to safely and efficiently deliver packages to customers, ”a FAA spokesman said Monday. “The FAA supports innovation that is beneficial to the public, especially during a health or weather-related crisis.”
Amazon has not revealed when or where it will begin its commercial delivery trials, but it has test sites in the Northwest and in the nearby Vancouver area. Still, we are probably a few years away from a commercial drone delivery service, in part because the FAA still needs to define rules beyond the trial phase.
“This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operational and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers worldwide,” said David Carbon, Amazon’s vice president, in a statement.
Last year, Amazon unveiled the latest version of the delivery drone, which is capable of taking off vertically like a helicopter and then flying forward like an airplane. Amazon said its intention is to produce electric drones capable of flying as much as 15 miles, to deliver packages weighing less than five pounds, and to do so in 30 minutes or less. At the time, Amazon said it intended to begin delivering packages “within a few months,” but the service has yet to materialize.
Amazon joins the Alphabet subsidiary Wing and UPS as companies that have received FAA approval to operate under the federal regulations for charter operators and small airlines.
Wing has made limited drone deliveries under a similar FAA approval in Virginia since last year, while UPS flies medical equipment on a hospital campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. Other smaller companies and start-ups are also applying for extended FAA approvals.