New FAA drone regulations mean bad news for Amazon

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By Larry Banks

This weekend the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed new rules governing commercial drone use, which would require “people flying drones for commercial purposes obtain a special pilot certificate, stay away from bystanders and fly only during the day”, according to Reuters.

Limitations on drone flights

Under the new proposals, drones would be limited to flying no more than 100 miles per hour and an altitude of 500 feet. These restrictions, while largely considered less stringent than expected, are certainly not good news for Amazon’s Prime Air research program, which would enable rapid drone deliveries to customers in under 30 minutes.

“The FAA’s proposed rules for small UAS could take one or two years to be adopted and, based on the proposal, even then those rules wouldn’t allow Prime Air to operate in the United States”, said Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of Global Public Policy.

“The FAA needs to begin and expeditiously complete the formal process to address the needs of our business, and ultimately our customers. We are committed to realizing our vision for Prime Air and are prepared to deploy where we have the regulatory support we need.”

Amazon Prime Air’s main hurdle is regulatory

Amazon Prime Air Drone
Will Amazon’s drone delivery service, Amazon Prime Air, ever get off the ground in the US?

The CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, already anticipated the tightening up of drone use, as he said that Amazon Prime Air’s main hurdle would be regulatory, and that he feels saddened that regulations will mean the US enters late in the game in terms of commercial drone usage.

“Technology is not going to be the long pole”, Bezos said in December of last year. “The long pole is going to be regulatory.”

The same month Amazon sent a letter to the FAA saying that the company would “have no choice” but to move its drone research outside the US if it was unable to perform more outside testing. Currently, Amazon tests its delivery drones in the UK as US regulations restrict drone usage outdoors. However, the UK is also eyeing up new rules and restrictions on drone usage in future.

Images Courtesy of DepositPhotos

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