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Sorry, Amazon. FAA Reiterates Its Drone Policy: For Hobbyists Only

Drone deliveries are strictly commercial, the FAA says.

Sorry, Amazon. FAA Reiterates Its Drone Policy: For Hobbyists Only

[Image: Flickr user John Mills]

Once again, the Federal Aviation Administration has reaffirmed its policy on drones: for hobbyists only.

In a document released Monday seeking public opinion on its drone policy, the agency provided guidelines for what qualifies as hobby or recreation. In a blow to Amazon's drone-delivery plans, it pointed out that "delivering packages to people for a fee"—even as part of free shipping benefits, as with Amazon Prime—would be categorized as commercial use of an unmanned vehicle.

But according to Amazon, that doesn't mean their ambitious plans have been completely derailed. The FAA says the guidelines apply only to recreational use. "This is about hobbyists and model aircraft, not Amazon, and has no effect on our plans," Paul Misener, vice president of global public policy, tells Fast Company. "Our plan has always been to operate as a commercial entity to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less through Amazon Prime Air and this has no effect on that."

To date, the FAA has only granted commercial licenses to oil companies operating drones to monitor conditions in the Arctic.

Back in December, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos alluded to drone deliveries on 60 Minutes, noting it would be four or five years until the concept took off. Despite not having the license to operate these crafts, Bezos revealed at its shareholder meeting in April that the company was already iterating on its seventh- and eighth-generation unmanned vehicles. "Failure comes part and parcel with invention. It’s not optional," he said. "We understand that and believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right."