Amazon and the FAA Split on Commercial Drone Use

Amazon says: “Let My Drones Go!”

By Amine Khechfé


2015: It’s the year of Super Bowl XLIX, the future year to which Marty McFly traveled to in Back to the Future Part II and the year of … shipping drones?

Yes. According to Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of online marketplace Amazon, Amazon Prime Air could be delivering packages by drones as early as 2015. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, as of right now, delivering packages using a drone is illegal. However, since the massive Internet retailer isn’t too keen on twiddling its thumbs, waiting to see if the rules may or may not change, it has decided to proactively reach out to the FAA applying for an exemption, which would allow the company to test its drones.

As of right now, businesses cannot fly or test drones unless they are inside, whereas hobbyists have been given approval by the FAA to fly drones, enforcing the following guidelines:

  • Drones must be kept under 400 feet (the perfect height to completely confuse the bird species)
  • 5 miles away from the airports (we wouldn’t want the control tower getting confused)
  • Within line of sight (that means no fancy aerial work around buildings)

Let’s say the FAA does comply and allows Amazon to start playing with its drones. Down the road, this would inevitably lead to a full-on revamp of ecommerce shipping. Let’s take a moment to picture what it would look like if Amazon and other companies that offered online shipping started deploying drones to send goods.

On one hand, drones would push same-day shipping limits, signifying an even shorter delivery cycle. But on the other hand, variables such as weather could drastically deter scheduled drone deliveries. Blizzards and rain storms would dramatically reduce the capabilities of the drones’ sensors, making shipping during hard-hitting weather quite difficult. In this case, a heavy truck might do well compared to an unmanned robot in the sky.

Either way, we say let Amazon’s drones go. The world didn’t get to where it is today by suppressing technologies. Let’s see what we can achieve by 2015 – it might just surprise us.

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