Amazon: FAA rules bar drone deliveries

Amazon.com

Amazon says it will not be able to use drones to deliver items to customers in the U.S. under rules for the devices proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration. 

The FAA proposed rules over the weekend that would allow non-military drones under 55 pounds to be flown in the U.S., but only in the daytime and within the area of vision of operators. 

Amazon Vice President of Global Public Policy Paul Misener said the rules would make it impossible for the company to make the kind of deliveries that were touted as being possible in its “Prime Air” service. 

ADVERTISEMENT
“The FAA’s proposed rules for small UAS could take one or two years to be adopted and, based on the proposal, even then those rules wouldn’t allow Prime Air to operate in the United States,” Misener said in a statement provided to The Hill. 

The FAA’s rules define small drones as devices that weigh less than 55 pounds and require them to be operated at heights less than 500 feet and speeds less than 100 miles per hour.

The regulations also call for drone flights to be conducted only by U.S. residents older than 17. Drone operators are also prohibited under the FAA proposal from conducting flights that take the devices out of their line of vision, which is a big blow to Amazon and other companies that have touted the possibility of using the technology to deliver consumer goods.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said when the proposed rules were announced on Sunday that they are an attempt to regulate the use of non-military drones without stifling the expansion of the new technology.

“We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules,” Huerta said. “We want to maintain today’s outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry.”

Misener said Amazon would continue to work to implement its drone delivery service in other countries if the rules that would prohibit its use in the U.S. are implemented. 

“The FAA needs to begin and expeditiously complete the formal process to address the needs of our business, and ultimately our customers,” he said. “We are committed to realizing our vision for Prime Air and are prepared to deploy where we have the regulatory support we need.”   

The FAA had been facing tremendous pressure to approve a rapid expansion of non-military drone use. Congress had given the agency until September 2015 to finalize new rules for the unmanned aircraft.

The pressure on the FAA to quickly approve drones was being ramped up when Amazon announced in 2013 that it was testing the possibility of using drones to speed up delivery times.

Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony FoxxFeds funnel nearly M toward DC Metro safety efforts Railroads slow to adopt technology that prevents accidents Smarter transportation Is just what the doctor ordered MORE said the FAA’s rules will strike a balance between the desire for increased drone use and concerns that have arisen about potential privacy violations.

“Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace and this milestone allows federal regulations and the use of our national airspace to evolve to safely accommodate innovation,” Foxx said in a statement.

Drone advocates have sided with Amazon in the fight over whether the devices should be allowed to fly further than the eye sight of their operators. 

“We are encouraged by the Administrator’s statement today that FAA is studying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations, as the Coalition is involved in these efforts, and that the exemption process is available for certain operations beyond the visual line of sight,” the Washington, D.C.-based Small UAV Coalition said in a statement after the FAA’s proposed rules were announced.  

“In the meantime, First Person View technology is available now, and is critical to unleashing the power of automation in this space,” the statement continued. “Until small [drones] are able to go beyond the line of sight, we are not maximizing the technology as other countries already do.”