Amazon Delivery Drones: FAA OK’s Prime Air Fleet
The FAA has cleared the regulatory skies for Amazon to launch its long-awaited drone delivery service.
The agency announced Monday the retail giant can operate its fleet of Prime Air delivery drones – a project that’s been seven years in the making. Amazon Prime Air “uses autonomous UAS to safely and efficiently deliver packages to customers,” according to the FAA’s statement.
“The FAA’s role is to ensure that any UAS operation is performed safely. The FAA supports innovation that is beneficial to the public, especially during a health or weather-related crisis,” an FAA spokesperson added – perhaps referencing the increased interest in drone delivery during the COVID crisis.
“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.”
In 2015, the FAA granted Amazon an experimental airworthiness certificate to the company’s logistics division. The certificate allowed Amazon to fly drones for development and crew training. The retailer first applied in July of that year after announcing its plans to get into the UAV delivery biz in 2013.
Last year, UPS garnered the first full “Part 135 Standard” certification from the FAA — Alphabet spinoff Wing Aviation LLC (Wing) received a Part 135 Single pilot air carrier certificate for drone operations in April 2019. Wing and UPS Flight Forward received the certifications as part of the UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP). Also in 2019, Prime Air snagged approval to fly R&D missions in authorized flight areas.
The latest Prime Air drone has a range of 15 miles and can carry packages weighing under 5 pounds.
Amazon’s FAA nod may reveal the agency’s eagerness to expand delivery drone testing. In February, the FAA released a proposal allowing the agency more flexibility to create new types of certificates based on specific functions as drone tech evolves. The policy acknowledges the growth of drone delivery as an example.