After scolding, FAA gives new drone permission to Amazon

After scolding, FAA gives new drone permission to Amazon
© Getty Images

Amazon has received new federal permission to test out drones that could one day deliver packages all over the country, just a month after it vocally criticized the government’s slow process.

On Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration issued Amazon a new exemption from government regulations that otherwise ban companies from using drones as part of their business.


The new FAA approval will allow it to test out drones specifically for Amazon's Prime Air delivery plan, which it hopes can one day deliver goods to people’s door in 30 minutes or less.

Allowing the company to test out the drones is “in the public interest,” an FAA official wrote to Amazon on Wednesday. 

The action comes a month after the FAA granted another exemption to the company, which Amazon quickly derided as too limiting and no longer relevant. 

Amazon had moved on to new and better technology while waiting for that approval, Vice President Paul Misener testified in the Senate last month, making the FAA permission “obsolete.” 

The new permission will come with several limitations.

Drones won’t be able to fly faster than 100 miles per hour, will have to stay below 400 feet and within site of the operator, and can’t operate at night, among other restrictions.

In a statement on Friday, Misener said that Amazon is "pleased the FAA has granted our petition for this stage of R&D experimentation, and we look forward to working with the agency for permission to deliver Prime Air service to customers in the United States safely and soon."

Amazon has dreamed about using drones to replace its mail service for more than a year but has run into some roadblocks from federal regulators.

It is largely illegal to use a drone for business purposes in the U.S., though the FAA has issued draft regulations that could change that. However, the rules are still somewhat limiting and would likely not allow for Amazon to use the flying machines as delivery vehicles, it has said.

—Updated at 1:14 p.m.