Amazon drone delivery trial approved; Moves a step closer to reality

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Amazon Drone Image
Amazon aims to deliver products under 30 minutes with its drone service

Amazon has earned a crucial Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certificate which takes it a step closer to introducing drone delivery in the US.

The FAA is a United States governing agency with authority to oversee all areas of civil aviation within that nation as well as its surrounding international waters.

Amazon now has what is called a Part 135 air carrier certificate which must be obtained before drone deliveries are initiated by a company. Amazon said the approval will be used to start testing deliveries but did not specify when or where the tests would take place.

As part of its application for the certificate, Amazon said it validated over 500 safety and efficiency processes.

The company had first opened up about its plans for Amazon Prime Air, which would make deliveries in 30 minutes or less using drones, in December 2013. Amazon claims it has test centers in the US and around the world today, and has logged thousands of hours of travel.

It made its first drone delivery in Britain in December 2016.

Amazon introduced last year the revamped version of its delivery drone which can take off vertically like a helicopter and then fly forward like an aircraft. Amazon said its goal is to manufacture electrical drones that can fly as much as 15 miles, deliver products weighing less than 5 pounds and do so in 30 minutes or less.

At the time, Amazon had said it wanted to start shipping orders “in a matter of months,” but it is yet to start operations.

David Carbon, a former Boeing (American aerospace company) executive, joined Amazon this past March and took the lead on its drone project. He called the certification a big step forward.

David Carbon Image
David Carbon, Vice President Amazon Prime Air.

“We will continue to develop and refine our technology to fully integrate delivery drones into the airspace, and work closely with the FAA and other regulators around the world to realize our vision of 30 minute delivery.”

Social distancing worries have raised interest in the use of robotics for delivery during the pandemic, but the systems are not yet ready for widespread use. The FAA is also continuing to establish regulations required for widespread use of drones, such as remote drone identification.

Amazon is the third drone delivery firm to be granted the FAA certification. UPS and Wing, a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, also got their own in 2019. The US-based UPS has been delivering hospital care supplies and prescriptions. Wing began delivery through drones in October 2019.

Many smaller companies are also seeking approval for the same.