Amazon’s much-vaunted delivery drones are turning out to be more than just a publicity stunt. On March 19, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that Amazon is receiving an experimental airworthiness certificate that will allow them to test drone aircraft. In effect, it’s a green light by the FAA for Jeff Bezos and company to start legally mucking around with delivery via tiny, unmanned aircraft.
The FAA’s press office says that the certificate allows Amazon to conduct testing in daylight at altitudes of 400 feet and below. Testing must only be conducted during good weather, drones must stay in pilots’ line of sight at all times, and pilots must have both a valid pilots’ license and a recent medical exam. However, the certificate does not allow Amazon to actually conduct deliveries via drone inside the United States.
As part of the license, Amazon will be required to provide the FAA with extensive monthly progress reports. The certificate was granted to Amazon Logistics, a subsidiary of the retail giant that is dedicated to “build(ing) Earth’s best delivery network.”
Late last year, Amazon hired a pilot to work in their Cambridge, U.K., R&D center. The company had threatened to move its drone research entirely out of the U.S. if the FAA did not ease restrictions. Going forward, Amazon has some major hurdles to overcome before it can actually deliver orders via drone, including issues of battery life, storage capacity, customer apprehension, and high delivery costs.