Amazon's plea to feds: Let drones deliver

Amazon's plea to feds: Let drones deliver
© Amazon.com

Amazon is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to loosen its proposed rules for commercial drones so the company can use the devices to deliver packages that weigh less than 55 pounds.

The Seattle-based company said in comments submitted to the FAA that its initial proposal for requiring drones to remain in the line of vision of their operators was “overly prescriptive.” 

 “We disagree with the FAA’s belief that extending see-and-avoid principles to small UAS [unmanned aircraft systems], as well as the potential loss of positive control of small UAS, present ‘unique safety concerns’  — and, thereby, warrant delayed consideration,” the company said in its submitted comments, which were obtained by The Hill. 

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“Overly prescriptive restrictions are likely to have the unintended effect of stifling innovation and, over time, will fail to offer any corresponding safety benefit as small UAS technology evolves,” the Amazon comment continued.

“By contrast, genuine performance-based regulation would provide a flexible framework for operators to demonstrate that these types of operations can be conducted safely. To complement this performance-based approach, Amazon strongly supports the inclusion of deviation authority in the final rule to facilitate the development, testing, and introduction of UAS technologies, including Prime Air.” 

The FAA’s initial rules, which were unveiled in February, defined small drones as devices that weigh less than 55 pounds and require them to be operated at heights below 500 feet and speeds below 100 miles per hour.

The regulations also call for drone flights to be limited to daytime hours and conducted only by U.S. residents who are older than 17 years of age.

Amazon is taking issue with a requirement in the rules that prohibits drone operators from conducting flights that take the devices out of their line of vision, which the company said would prevent the possibility of using the technology to conduct deliveries it had previously touted. 

The rules were seen as a long-sought victory for most advocates of the technology, but critics have raised concerns about potential privacy violations.

Amazon said in its comments that its only objections to the FAA’s proposed drone rules are related to its ability to use the technology to make deliveries.  

“Our specific comments here focus narrowly on those areas that are of the greatest significance for Prime Air’s commercial operations, and respond to the FAA’s request for ‘comment on whether there are additional requirements that could be specified in ways that are more performance-oriented,’” the company said. 

“We believe the FAA should consistently adopt a performance-based approach throughout the final rule, and not artificially and unnecessarily limit the promising benefits of small UAS technology.” 

The comment period on the FAA’s proposed drone rule proposal ended on April 24.