Amazon has filed a request with the Federal Communications Commission to test a new wireless communications technology configuration in its Seattle headquarters as well as an Amazon customer service location in Kennewick, Wash. The tests are related to Amazon’s Prime Air drone delivery program, according to a Business Insider report
The BI reports states that each of the test sites would host three low-power, fixed base stations and 10 mobile devices. The base stations would transmit only five minutes per hour, but over several different frequencies.
The filing also states that the tests would occur over five months and involve Amazon employees. Amazon's tests in Kennewick would occur in a five kilometer area around its site, though it requested network equipment be installed in a 120 km radius of the Kennewick site.
Business Insider also reported that the contact on the filing is Neil Woodward, the senior manager for Amazon Prime Air and retired astronaut, which provides a pretty big hint as to what this test might be all about.
While the filing is not terribly specific, the involvement of a senior Prime Air official and the timing of the request suggest this test very likely has something to do with wireless communications configurations that potentially could serve as the underpinning network architecture that Prime Air delivery drones could use to communicate with their operators and one another to establish a safe and secure flying environment. Is it the mesh network concept that Amazon received a patent for? It could be, though it easily could be something a bit different.
Amazon is requesting the test occur under the auspices of the FCC's experimental wireless program, which would let the e-commerce giant play with a new technology in a private deployment without having it fall subject to further regulatory oversight. It also could mean Amazon is still testing the waters with the new technology.
Still, it appears to be another sign that Amazon is not only sticking with its drone delivery program, but also stepping up it development efforts. After the Federal Aviation Administration suggested delivery drone regulation is still a ways off, some expected Amazon to put its drones back on the shelf, at least for a while. However, wireless communication will be a very necessary safety and security ingredient in the emerging drone delivery environment, and Amazon is showing us that if that's what regulators want, Amazon is ready lead the pursuit.