Senior officials from Amazon and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) testified before Congress yesterday on the feasibility of using drones for commercial purposes—and it turns out Amazon could be making drone deliveries within the year. Not only that, but the e-commerce company wants to deliver products within 30 minutes using the small, unmanned aircraft.
Michael Whitaker, the FAA’s deputy administrator, said the agency expects to formalize regulations for commercial drones within 12 months. This is a huge change; commercial drone regulations for purposes such as delivery and filming major sports events were not expected until 2016 or 2017 at the earliest. "The rule will be in place within a year," he told the House of Representatives’ Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
"We’d like to begin delivering to our customers as soon as it’s approved," added Amazon vice president of global public policy Paul Misener. "We will have it in place by the time any regulations are ready. We are working very quickly." He added that the company plans to use drones to deliver products within 30 minutes of customers ordering them.
But there’s a rub: Amazon wants to make sure its drone program is regulated by the FAA—and not state or local authorities more vulnerable to demands by local citizens. In written testimony to the committee, Misener said that Amazon insists on federal regulation for their drone deliveries under interstate commerce laws. Fast Company has reported previously on NASA’s attempts to develop an air traffic control system for drone aircraft in the United States.
Yesterday, Amazon also announced R&D efforts based around hiring amateur delivery people via a TaskRabbit-style app.