Amazon received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate as a drone airline in the United States, which allowed it to begin offering commercial deliveries on a trial basis, Bloomberg reports. The FAA said the move allowed Amazon to “safely and efficiently deliver packages to customers,” according to CNBC, and let its drones carry packages out of the operator’s line of sight.
“This certification is an important milestone for Prime Air,” said Amazon vice president for Prime Air, David Carbon. Bloomberg, adding that the decision “indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will someday deliver packages to our customers around the world.”
It’s been a long milestone for Amazon, which announced its Prime Air plans in 2013. But hardware limitations, not to mention health and safety regulations, have presented big challenges for the company. It made its first successful drone delivery to Cambridge, England in 2016, but regular commercial service never followed. Even now, Bloomberg notes that there are many hurdles facing Amazon and its competitors making routine deliveries. The FAA is expected to finalize new rules on drone flying over crowds before the end of the year.
Amazon said Bloomberg that he intends to start doing delivery testing, but declined to provide further details.
Last year, Amazon unveiled the latest version of its delivery drone, which can take off vertically like a helicopter, then fly forward like an airplane. Amazon said its intention was to produce electric drones capable of flying up to 15 miles, delivering packages weighing less than five pounds, and doing so in 30 minutes or less. At the time, Amazon said it intended to start delivering packages “in a few months,” but the service has yet to materialize.
Amazon is far from being the only company to have obtained FAA certification, Bloomberg Remarks. Google’s sister company Wing got its approval to make deliveries last April, and then claimed the title of the first commercial drone delivery service in the United States when it began offering deliveries in Virginia more late that year. UPS has also tested the use of drones to transport medical supplies to North Carolina in partnership with Matternet.