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FAA Approves Amazon Prime Air Drone Delivery Trials in the US

By The Biz Team (Nicholas)

Amazon recently became an official air carrier. The Federal Aviation Administration granted Amazon Prime Air designation, thereby permitting the company to start its first commercial delivery trials in the United States. The milestone has been expected for some time by the company as it announced the Prime Air plans in 2013. However, many hardware, safety, and regulatory issues made it hard to accomplish. The first successful drone delivery was in Cambridge in 2016; however, a regular commercial service was not in the cards until now. According to Bloomberg, the company will proceed with its hexagonal next-generation hybrid drone, which it had displayed the previous year. The craft can take off and land vertically like a typical hexacopter drone, but it has a fixed-wing airplane's aerodynamics.

As it operates on six degrees of movement rather than four, it is more stable on average, and it is well adapted to dealing with the elements. Artificial Intelligence plays a significant role, as well. The software can avoid unexpected obstacles, and it is adept at locating wires that other drones are more likely to miss. That means it is effectively able to counter such things like power-lines and birds as much as possible. Amazon is still aiming for drones with a range of 15 miles and the ability to haul packages that are lighter than 5 pounds for customers located within 30 minutes of the distributor. The hope is that the drones are not only going to deliver the packages faster but also reduce the environmental effect by encouraging individuals to stay at home.

Of course, it will not be available to all areas immediately, and it is dependent on the regulators clearing the path for delivery drones. Amazon has also not yet indicated when or where it would start the commercial delivery trials, but it does have test sites within the Vancouver and Northwest. However, the technology is years away from a commercial drone delivery service, considering the FAA still has to define its regulations beyond the trial phase. According to the firm's vice president, David Carbon, the certificate is a significant step forward for Prime Air, and it shows the confidence of the FAA in the operating and safety processes of the company that it would allow autonomous drone delivery. One day the service may extend globally.

The FAA's clearance for the trials is set according to the safety regulations, which it mandates for airlines operating commercial services. Though, there are particular exceptions for firms to bypass these prerequisites if they primarily deal with onboarding crew and staff working the craft. A drone does not have such luxuries, so it should be subjected to even tighter regulations to ensure the packages' safety and the people on the ground.

At this time, the guidelines are best a patchwork remedy designed by the FAA and its partners to look for a way to get underway with systems development and testing. However, it is a process, and the agency is looking for a better fit for purpose criteria that would govern drone-based commercial airline operations. These would be applied for authorizing flights of drones above densely populated areas because therein resides the highest risk. That being said, all drone flights will require human supervision, much like air traffic controllers. Overall, any viable drone delivery system will need fully autonomous settings without a direct line of sight observation other than radar.

Amazon is the third firm to get the certification for drone delivery from the FAA. The others include UPS Flight Forward and Alphabet's Wing. It makes Amazon's certification notable considering Amazon would be in a position to soon own the entire purchasing chain from customer shopping to delivery via commercial drone. It is well earned considering Amazon has been working on the concept of drone delivery for several years, and it has made significant progress thus far.

Similarly, the pandemic may serve as an added advantage for the organization in this respect. There is a high significance for online transactions as the public reduces physical contact following social distancing measures. People and corporations are also prioritizing working from home, which means operations and deliveries of equipment and perishables may have to be done by drone. Since road vehicular autonomous delivery is still in the testing stages, air drone delivery is the next best bet. Amazon may soon be able to fill this gap in the market.

They have seen a significant uptick on online sales during the last six months, understandably. In response, Amazon has hired an additional 100,000 workers, but it seems that delivering orders via flying and rolling delivery robots could be an essential part of the plan towards keeping up with the extra demand.


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