Amazon has asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to use drones as part of its delivery service. The company hopes that drones can help to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less. The plan was announced in December of 2013, and it was hoped that unmanned aircraft would deliver packages weighing up to 2.3 kilograms to homes or locations that are within 16 kilometers of the company’s distribution centers.
Amazon says that the aerial vehicles are being developed as part of the Amazon Prime Air service, and are capable of travelling at speeds up to 80 kilometers per hour. The company also states that it is hoped that the service can be deployed globally if and when they are allowed to do so. At this time the use of drones for commercial use is banned in the U.S., however, hobbyists, amateurs, and model aircraft players are allowed to fly drones in local regions, but Amazon is seeking an exemption so that the use of drones can be tested.
The Federal Aviation Administration is currently developing guidelines for the commercial use of drones, as a deadline of September 2015 was mandated by the U.S. Congress. However, due to several delays, and missed deadlines, it appears that the timeline will be extended. In seeking permission for deliveries with drones, the company says that testing will be restricted to private property in Seattle, which is isolated from regular air traffic or aerial activity.
Amazon claims that the drone technology that they have developed is now in its ninth generation and has been developed at its indoor research facility, and is seeking permission to test some of the advanced capabilities in an outdoor environment.
Two drone models have been certified for commercial application, but the use has been restricted to Alaska. The ScanEagle, developed by Boeing and the Insitu Group, and another model called the Puma, developed by AeroVironment are being used by companies such as British Petroleum for surveying pipelines and for monitoring the migration habits of wildlife.
The drones are compared to model aircraft, and are expected to operate at heights that do not exceed 400 feet above the ground level. The company says operators will be considered as pilots, and will hold private pilot certificates, after completion of the FAA pilot instruction programs and successful completion of the FAA private pilot written examination. They have also stated plans for the inclusion of extensive safety features.
Amazon Air Prime Drones, for which the company seeks permission for commercial deliveries, includes sensing capabilities, and the company has tested a full spectrum of features that encompass duration, agility and redundancy. The company says that the technology allows the battery-powered drones to avoid collisions. The company appears to be fully committed to make the drone delivery service become reality, and appears to have other options if permission is not granted. Canada appears to be ready to accept drone companies, and it would be a simple procedure for Amazon to move its operations. In seeking permission to for drone deliveries Amazon can expect to save on the cost of shipping, which is estimated to be almost $4 billion annually.
By Dale Davidson