Gifts Today magazine

FAA approves Amazon’s experimental drone test phase

Amazon’s determination to automate parcel delivery has moved to the next phase after the US Federal Aviation Authority issued an airworthiness certificate which will allow experimental testing of a prototype drone design in outdoor test flights over private, rural land in Washington state.

The certification applies to a particular drone design, and Amazon must obtain a new certification for further test flights if the drone is modified. Under the terms of the experimental certification, drone operators must hold a private pilots’ license and current medical Prime Air certification, and Amazon must furnish regulators with monthly data and conduct flights at 120 metres or below in “visual meteorological conditions".

Despite public concern over safety and privacy implications, Amazon is developing drones that can fly at speeds of 80kph, operate autonomously, and sense and avoid objects. Over recent years there has been growing interest from both individual and corporations in using unmanned aerial vehicles, and in February the FAA proposed draft rules to try to set universal guidelines for drones, almost 10 years in the making. The draft rules must undergo public comment and revision before being finalised, a process expected to take at least a year.

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