E-retail giant Amazon recently received clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate its fleet of Prime Air delivery drones. The move marks a new milestone for the company as it will now be able to expand its unmanned package delivery.
The FAA has also designated Amazon Prime Air as an 'air carrier', making it one of the few companies certified to operate as a drone airline in the US. The FAA certification comes under Part 135 of FAA regulations, allowing Amazon to carry payloads on small drones 'beyond the visual line of sight' of the operator.
The approval comes at a time when Amazon’s business has surged during the on-going coronavirus pandemic as consumers around the world are opting to have their goods delivered to their doorsteps rather than visit traditional stores. Amazon will be hoping to revolutionise the retail space with unmanned delivery of goods over the air. Amazon’s fleet of drones has a pretty strong track record of being able to fly relatively long distances carrying payloads that resemble packages.
However, unmanned delivery of packages through drones is still quite a few years out from being routine. The FAA is set to finalise regulations on unmanned drone deliveries over crowds and buildings by the end of this year. Additionally, the drones will have to be able to fly pre-programmed routes without human operators monitoring their every move.
CNBC reported that Amazon committed to deliveries in areas with low population density, while packages would not exceed five pounds in its petition. Last year, Amazon debuted an electric deliver drone that was capable of carrying a payload under 5 pounds to customers within half an hour, recording flight speeds of up to 15 miles.
Amazon is not the only company with a drone airline. Last year, Alphabet-owned Wing became the first drone delivery company to receive FAA certification for commercial deliveries in the US. UPS also got approval from the FAA to operate a fleet of drones as an airline in October last year.