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FAA Renews Amazon Drone Research

While the FAA’s late approval rendered Amazon’s previous drone obsolete, the tech giant is now free to pursue drone R&D.

FAA Renews Amazon Drone Research
[Screenshot: via Amazon]

It took a year and a half for the Federal Aviation Administration to approve Amazon’s first drone–so long, in fact, that Amazon complained to a Senate subcommittee in March that they had deemed that design obsolete. But the FAA is now responding to requests faster and, according to USA Today, has now renewed Amazon’s drone research license, aiding the tech giant’s quest to deliver packages via drone as part of its Prime Air initiative. Amazon was one of 30 companies granted exemption from the FAA’s ban on commercial drone usage, which brings the total of exemptions to 128.

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Eventually, Amazon hopes its drones will cruise at 50 mph carrying up to five pounds of cargo, but the FAA has set forth numerous flight restrictions that the tech giant’s drone testing must obey: a maximum drone weight of 55 pounds, a maximum speed of 100 mph, and a flight altitude ceiling of 400 feet. For safety reasons, the drones are required to maintain a 500-foot perimeter, and if a drone loses connection to its pilot or GPS, it must fly back to a predetermined location.

As noted by Engadget, the FAA released new guidelines yesterday streamlining how it will handle commercial drone requests in the future. While the agency will still review each and every request, it can issue a summary grant when it finds “it has already granted a previous exemption similar to the new request,” the guidelines say.

Not everyone is psyched about the prospect of more drones. The Air Line Pilots Association union, which represents 50,000 pilots, has petitioned the FAA to require drones flying near densely populated areas to coordinate with nearby air traffic controllers, says USA Today. The FAA has said that it will distribute warnings to pilots in the area prior to drone flights. The National Agricultural Aviation Association representing 1,800 crop dusters wants drone pilots to hold commercial pilot certificates so that everyone is trained to the same degree, but the FAA insists that drone pilots holding less rigorous certificates won’t be a danger (yesterday’s update relaxed drone pilot requirements to allow recreational or sport pilot licenses).

[via USA Today]

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