Amazon unveils plan for controlling drone traffic

Amazon unveils plan for controlling drone traffic
© Amazon.com

Amazon is issuing a proposal on how to govern drone traffic in airspace, the latest step toward its goal of one day delivering packages using small unmanned crafts.

The company proposed in one of two position papers published on Tuesday that a 200-foot swath of airspace — from 200 to 400 feet — be dedicated to the operation of drones with advanced navigation and communications technology. Airspace below 200 feet would be available to less advanced vehicles in some areas.


A-100 foot space from 400 to 500 feet in the air would act a no-fly buffer zone between the space exclusively devoted to drones and the airspace also used by standard aircraft. That no-fly zone would include all airspace below 500 feet in the area above airports. There would also be predetermined “low risk” areas where drones could be flown at all heights.

The company said such an arrangement was necessary because of what it says will be a rapid growth in drone use over the next decade.

“As a result of these factors, Amazon believes the current model of airspace management will not meet future [small unmanned aircraft systems] demands, particularly highly-automated, low-altitude commercial operations,” the company said in the position paper. “A paradigm shift in airspace management and operations is necessary to safely accommodate the one-operator-to-many-vehicle model required by large-scale commercial fleets.”

The rise of small unmanned aircraft has posed new questions for policymakers. In February, the Federal Aviation Administration announced new rules aimed at regulating the use of drones that weigh under 55 pounds.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is also running a set of meetings devoted to developing privacy rules for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Though most drone deliveries are still prohibited under the rules, which say a pilot must always be within sight of the aircraft, a company this month conducted the first federally-approved delivery of a package by drone. The aircraft delivered medicine to a pop-up clinic in rural Virginia.