Amazon’s VP for global public policy Paul Misener told a Senate panel Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval last week of part of its Prime Air drone program is “already obsolete.” The administration's permission to start testing its delivery drones only applied to one model of drone from the company, a model that Misener says is outdated. "We don’t test it anymore," Misener said. "We’ve moved on to more advanced designs that we already are testing abroad."
Misener said that the company has sent the FAA an application that applies to its new drone technology, but that Amazon prefers a blanket commercial-drone exemption.
He warned the panel that Europe may get drone delivery well ahead of the U.S. because, he said, the company has been able to test its drones in the UK and elsewhere.
Misener came on pretty strong in his public testimony Tuesday, and it’s no surprise that Amazon would prefer an exemption that would save the company from knocking on the agency’s regulatory door as it develops new technologies.
But it’s not clear that he presented the whole picture of drone regulation in Europe. For now, the rules there remain a patchwork for drones weighing less than about 300 pounds. Spain, for example, has banned commercial drones altogether.
Indeed, the chief of the European Aviation Safety Agency said last year that the FAA is “much more advanced than we are” in its consideration of commercial drones that might apply to the European Union as a whole. And pressure is building in the United Kingdom to tighten drone regulation.
In any case, the differences between the European and American approaches may shrink, considering that the two regulatory agencies have begun working together to tackle issues like safety and privacy. Whether that works in Amazon’s favor remains to be seen.