FAA grants Amazon permission to fly drones beyond line of sight

Source: Amazon

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given Amazon permission to operate parcel delivery drones beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS).

Until now e-commerce giant Amazon’s drone operations in the US have been limited to being in line of sight, meaning they need to be monitored at all times by a remote pilot.

However, the FAA recently granted the company permission to operate the flights BVLOS, which will allow it to serve more customers via drone package delivery in the Texas city of College Station where its drone operation has been running for the last couple of years.

“Now that we’ve been granted these permissions by the FAA, we’ll immediately scale our operations in College Station with our current MK-27 drone to reach customers in more densely populated areas,” Amazon said in a blog post.

To obtain the permission, Amazon developed a BVLOS strategy, including an onboard detect-and-avoid technology.

“We’ve spent years developing, testing, and refining our onboard detect-and-avoid system to ensure our drones can detect and avoid obstacles in the air,” the company said.

“We submitted crucial engineering information to the FAA, including our onboard detect-and-avoid capabilities. This included how our system was designed, how it is operated, how it is maintained, and ultimately how we validated that the system performs to specified requirements.”

Amazon has conducted test flights in the presence of FAA inspectors to demonstrate how its drone system would work in real-world scenarios.

This includes operating the drones in the presence of aircraft, helicopters and a hot air balloon to demonstrate how they navigated away from each of them.

“We also provided extensive analysis and test data for our technology that further validated the safety of our system,” the company added. “After reviewing this information and observing the technology in action at our test site, the FAA provided Amazon Prime Air with BVLOS approval.”

Later this year, drone deliveries will begin integrating into Amazon’s delivery network, meaning drones will deploy from facilities next to Same-Day Delivery sites.

Amazon received an Air Carrier Certificate from the FAA in 2020 that allowed it to operate as an airline and deliver small packages via drone.

The company aims to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using its drone technology.

“To achieve our goal of delivering 500m packages, per year, by drone, by the end of this decade, we knew we had to design a system capable of serving highly populated areas and that was safer than driving to the store.”

Amazon Air expands capacity and simplifies network

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Damian Brett

Damian Brett
I have been writing about the freight and logistics industry since 2007 when I joined International Freighting Weekly to cover the shipping sector.After a stint in PR, I have gone on to work for Containerisation International and Lloyds List - where I was editor of container shipping - before joining Air Cargo News in 2015.Contact me on [email protected]