Proposed FAA rules complicate Amazon drone delivery plans

Dive Brief:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration over the weekend released long-anticipated proposed rules that would allow commercial drone aircraft to crowd U.S. skies.

  • But the rules as released would bar the drones Amazon envisioned for its “Prime Air” program.

  • Under the rules, drones would have to be under 55 pounds, fly no faster than 100 miles per hour, and must be in the line of sight of their operators. Unless operators get special clearance to fly between 500 and 18,000 feet, drones would have to be flown no higher than 500 feet above the ground.

Dive Insight:

These rules would likely unleash plenty of commercial drones into U.S. skies and likely meet the needs of Realtors, farmers, Hollywood movie makers, and others. But not the Prime Air drone delivery program envisioned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, which depends on autonomous unmanned drones. The rules are now open to public comment, but it remains to be seen if they could be changed drastically enough to make Amazon Prime Air workable.

“One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today, resulting in enormous benefits for consumers across the nation,” Amazon VP of global public policy Paul Misener wrote to FAA administrator Michael P. Huerta last summer. “We respectfully submit this petition for exemption so that Prime Air can be ready to launch commercial operations as soon as eventually permitted by subsequent FAA action.” 

But it looks like Amazon’s goal of lifting its drone program sometime this year is now effectively grounded.

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Filed Under: Logistics Corporate News
Top image credit: Don McCullough