Amazon asks permission for drone flights

 

Amazon has filed a petition with federal regulators asking for permission to test using drones to deliver packages to customers’ houses.

The request to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the first formal sign that the online shopping giant is firmly committed to working with regulators on its drone plans.

The company claimed that soon, seeing delivery drones “will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today, resulting in enormous benefits for consumers across the nation.”

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“Amazon Prime Air, a new delivery system that will get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using aerial vehicles, is one invention we are incredibly passionate about,” global public policy chief Paul Misener wrote in the FAA petition. “We believe customers will love it, and we are committed to making Prime Air available to customers worldwide as soon as we are permitted to do so.” 

In the filing, Misener claimed that company tests have led to vehicles that travel faster that 50 mph and carry up to 5 pounds of merchandise, which accounts for more than 85 percent of its shipments.

He requested permission “to conduct additional research and development for Prime Air,” its planned drone delivery program.

Currently, it is illegal to use a drone for commercial purposes in the United States.

The FAA is working on writing regulations to incorporate the technology into current law, but those aren’t set to be released until next September.

In the meantime, the FAA has agreed to allow some commercial operations on an individual basis. The first flights were approved just last month, for a company to survey oil pipelines in Alaska. 

The agency is coming under increasing pressure to move quickly, and it has had to shut down some operations from companies as varied as a business trying to deliver beer to fisherman and the Washington Nationals baseball team.

Amazon first unveiled its plans to use drones for delivering packages late last year, and has hired lobbyists to focus specifically on the initiative in recent months. 

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