FAA Clears Amazon For Flight; What's Next?
Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) has gained approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin test flights of drones in U.S. airspace, according to a new report by Reuters. Amazon hopes to eventually be able to make deliveries to customers using drones to carry packages by air.
The FAA approval does not give Amazon the freedom fly drones as it pleases. The airworthiness certificate that the FAA granted to Amazon comes with several conditions. First, the certificate was specifically granted to a single drone prototype, meaning that major modifications or testing of additional prototypes would require further certification.
In addition, the FAA is requiring drones to fly at elevations no higher than 400 feet, and the drones must stay within sight at all times. Amazon had asked for permission to fly at elevations up to 500 feet.
Finally, all drone operators must have both a private pilot license and a medical certification.
Are Amazon Drones Headed For Your Neighborhood?
It's unlikely that Americans will see any Amazon drone prototypes in the sky any time soon. The certification allows testing only over specified, privately-owned land in Washington state.
If the testing goes well, however, the eventual goal is to have "Prime Air" drones buzzing all over the country at speeds of up to 50 mph delivering packages to Amazon customers.
The rules and restrictions regarding individual and corporate use of drones are still being ironed out by regulators. The FAA drafted a set of regulations back in February, but the guidelines will likely undergo at least a year of public scrutiny and revisions before becoming formally enacted.
Disclosure: The author holds a short position in Amazon.
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