Amazon has received federal clearance to operate a drone-based package delivery program in the US. But don’t expect an aerial robot to drop off orders just yet.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued the certificate to Amazon on Saturday, enabling the company to use autonomous air-based bots for the customer deliveries. But for now, Amazon says it still needs more time to “refine” the technology before it rolls out across the US.
“This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world,” Amazon’s Vice President for Prime Air David Carbon said in a statement.
“We will continue to develop and refine our technology to fully integrate delivery drones into the airspace, and work closely with the FAA and other regulators around the world to realize our vision of 30-minute delivery,” he added.
Amazon’s latest air-based drone delivery bot. (Credit: Amazon)
According to an FAA spokesperson, Amazon received a “Standard operator” certificate, meaning the company can operate the air-based drones with no limit on the scope or size of the operations. That said, the e-commerce giant doesn’t have free rein on drone deployment; it stills need to receive FAA approval for each type of operation it wants to conduct.
The main challenge for Amazon is getting the unmanned aerial bots to fly safely in the air without crashing in to anything. Nevertheless, the company said the certificate is an important milestone in making drone-based deliveries a reality. The company has already logged thousands of hours flying its air-based drones to prove to federal regulators that the technology is safe.
Last year, Amazon showed off the latest prototype drone, an electric machine that can take off and land like a helicopter, but fly through the air like a standard plane. It can also navigate the airways autonomously with the help of sensors, which can detect obstructions such as chimney towers and power lines.
Other company to receive FAA certificates include Google’s sister company, Wing, which got a Single pilot air carrier certificate in April 2019, and UPS Flight Forward, Inc., which got a Standard Part 135 air carrier certificate.
Since then, Wing has been delivering goods to local residents in Virginia from businesses such as FedEx and Walgreens. It works by flying the packages to the consumer’s home and then lowering the deliveries to the customer with the help of a special tether. UPS Flight Forward also flew medical supplies at WakeMed’s hospital campus in Raleigh, North Carolina.