In a letter last Tuesday, AUVSI president and CEO Michael Toscano urged the U.S. Department of Transportation to grant Amazon an exemption that would allow the online giant to conduct immediate outdoor tests of its commercial drones.
FAA regulations for drone use are still at least 16 months away, and expecting companies to wait that long is unacceptable given the significant business benefits drones allow, Tosacano said in his letter.
Amazon asked the FAA in July that it be permitted to conduct outdoor tests in the U.S. and urged the agency to use the Modernization Act to grant an “expedited operational authorization” for the effort. Amazon is among a handful of companies that have made the request.
Accelerating the use of commercial unmanned aerial vehicles would help businesses like Amazon while also unlocking the potential for significant job growth in the drone sector, Toscano noted in his letter.
Amazon wants to use thousands of small, unmanned aerial systems to expedite package delivery to customers. Under its Prime Air initiative, the company has been developing and experimenting with unmanned systems capable of carrying small payloads over relatively short distances.
According to Amazon, it is currently testing a range of capabilities including agility, flight duration and sense-and-avoid sensors on its eighth and ninth-generation aerial vehicles. All of the tests are being carried out in indoor facilities or at overseas locations and involve battery-driven, rotor-powered, unmanned aerial vehicles weighing less than 55 pounds.
The company hopes to soon have unmanned systems capable of traveling over 50 miles an hour with 5-pound payloads. Such payloads represent over 86% of products sold on Amazon, according to the company.