VIDEO: FAA Gives Approval For Amazon To Test Drones
By CHRISTOPHER PANGOLOS // April 2, 2015
ABOVE VIDEO: Amazon testing delivery by drone, CEO tells 60 Minutes. (Video for SpaceCoastDaily)
Private Pilot’s Certificate and An Observer Must Remain Within Line of Sight of the Drone During Test Flights
The Federal Aviation Administration granted Amazon an experimental airworthiness certificate to test their Amazon Prime Air delivery drones on March 19.
This gives Amazon some progress toward their goal of a network of drones that can deliver packages in 30 minutes or less, though the certificate carries several restrictions that, if left in place, could throw a wrench into Amazon’s plans.
According to the FAA website, the certificate is for testing and training purposes, and will help to provide data on whether or not the delivery drones should be granted normal approval.
The restrictions on the certificate require all flights be during the day in clear weather and be at altitudes of no more than 400 feet.
A pilot with at least a private pilot’s certificate and an observer must remain within line of sight of the drone during test flights.
Amazon must provide monthly reports to the FAA, including number of flights, any software/hardware malfunctions, unintended behavior and loss of communications.
This provides some hope for Amazon’s drone delivery service to still prove itself after the FAA proposed regulations in February that placed heavy restrictions on drone flights.
According to the FAA’s press release, the proposal carried the same flight time restrictions and pilot requirements as the experimental certificate, and additionally the drone could not fly over any people aside from those directly involved in the flight.
One of the main concerns has been the drone’s ability to avoid airborne obstacles and obey standard flight protocols.
By proposed regulations, it would be the drone operator’s responsibility to see and avoid manned aircraft, in any risk of collision it must be the drone that maneuvers away first.
The drone must also be able to stay out of airport flight paths and restricted airspaces.
The drone operator must be aware of the locations of people on the ground to lessen the risk if control of the drone is lost.
Since these regulations place the responsibility of making decisions on the drone operators it would be difficult or impossible to reliably meet them with a completely autonomous drone.
As of right now these are only proposed regulations and are still subject to debate and change.
The FAA may have reason to be concerned though, as aside from Amazon other companies such as Google have been looking into drone delivery programs and large numbers of drones from multiple companies flying through the skies could pose a very real hazard.
The FAA has asked for public commentary on the proposed regulations to assist in making their decision.
The public can give their support, argument against, or other comments on the regulations at regulations.gov under operation and certification of small unmanned aircraft systems until April 24.
This decision will likely determine the fate of drone delivery services and whether or not drones flying overhead will become common sight in the future.