Amazon’s dreams of delivering packages with drones are one step closer to reality now the US’ aviation authorities have granted it a license to begin testing.
Eight months since applying for the license, Amazon announced it would be able to trial light items like USB sticks and smartphones to customers paying for its premium Prime Air delivery service.
Founder Jeff Bezos first revealed the firm’s plans to test out drones during an interview with US network CBS in January last year.
It plans to operate a fleet of drones that could deliver packages weighing 5 lbs and under, within half an hours’ time.
However, the US Federal Aviation Administration license comes with several restrictions. The firm must keep drones at 400 feet or below; drones can only fly during the day and in clear skies.
Further, the drone operator must hold a pilot’s license and with the assistance of a second ‘observer’ must have the drone in their line of sight from door-to-door.
Amazon have been told they must file monthly reports to the US aviation bureau about the flights.
Speaking to Forbes, a US lawyer said the news suggested: “The FAA is treating drones the same as a Boeing 747 that’s operating or for development or testing purposes."
The lawyer added: "This approach is some progress for Amazon specifically, but it’s still limiting for innovating companies in general.”
Drone use in the UK
In November, the retail search giant was advertising for a flight operations engineer to test its Prime Air delivery drones in Cambridge.
Candidates were expected to have “flight test experience, manned or unmanned” and “5+ years of relevant aviation experience, either civilian or military with either manned or unmanned aviation.”
Amazon have not responded to Techworld’s query about when drone service delivery could be expected in the UK, and whether it is actively being trialled in Cambridge.
Network Rail recently revealed they would use drones to collect and map data from its UK-wide network to improve track maintenance – and even boost field worker’s efficiency.
The railway is currently being ‘digitised’, with 3D cameras capturing detailed photos that can be cross sectioned to show where track maintenance is necessary.
Similarly, engineering and construction giant Balfour Beatty said that it would like to use drones to inspect motorways.