Amazon's Drones are Back and They're Better than Ever

By Ken Briodagh May 06, 2015

Amazon’s drone delivery program is back on track, thanks to a new approval by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulators. The program had been paused when the FAA decided no commercial drone flights were to be allowed in U.S. airspace, but now the Internet behemoth has been allowed to fly at up to 100 miles an hour, at no more than 400 feet of elevation.

Amazon’s drone program is hoping to create a network of autonomous drones that can find specific addresses to deliver small packages and then return to base, all while dodging obstacles automatically and avoiding other aircraft. The brand needed special approval because the current drone regulations require operators to stay in sight of the drone at all times, so the automated system would be illegal.

Amazon complained to the FAA on April 24 in a letter about the regulations, calling them “overly prescriptive” and “likely to have the unintended effect of stifling innovation,” in addition to predicting that they will “fail to offer any corresponding safety benefit.”  The letter went on to say that, in order for Amazon to create this fleet of autonomous delivery drones that will transform all of society into a long-awaited utopia, it will “…need permission to conduct small UAS operations…” that allow the brand to fly faster, higher and farther away than the regs allowed.

The short version of the April 24 letter is that proscriptive regulations would only serve to stymie innovation and development, but performance-driven regulations would let companies like Amazon work on new ideas above and beyond what’s allowed now, and allow the FAA to stop them, if they are deemed to be failures.

“We disagree with the FAA’s belief that extending see-and-avoid principles to small UAS [unmanned aircraft systems], as well as the potential loss of positive control of small UAS, present ‘unique safety concerns’ and, thereby, warrant delayed consideration,” the company said in its submitted comments. “By contrast, genuine performance-based regulation would provide a flexible framework for operators to demonstrate that these types of operations can be conducted safely. To complement this performance-based approach, Amazon strongly supports the inclusion of deviation authority in the final rule to facilitate the development, testing, and introduction of UAS technologies, including Prime Air.”

So, Amazon is fighting for ALL UAV developers, it seems to be saying. Although it only won for itself, with the new variance for testing taking effect only for Amazon as of now.

So keep your head down: Amazon might be flying by. 

This August 17 to 20, we'll be bringing all the big players in drone development and connected transportaiton to the IoT Evolution Expo, and yuo should be there, too. Don't forget to check out the DroneZone360, a special offering for our attendees that are looking to invest in drone technology. Click here for more. 

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino
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