In February 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a framework for how it plans to oversee the operation of small drones weighing 55 pounds or less. Now, on March 20, 2015, the FAA has come to an agreement with Amazon.com Inc. (Amazon), and issued it an online retailer experimental airworthiness certificate, to permit it to test fly delivery drones for research and development purposes. With this certificate, Amazon can now conduct test drone flights at 400 feet or below during daylight hours, as long as the drone remains in visual line-of-sight of the operator. Each Amazon drone operator must also have a private pilot’s certificate and current medical certification. Amazon will also be required to submit monthly reports to the FAA that provide information on the number of flights carried out, pilot duty time per flight, unusual modifications, and other flight data. The test fly delivery drones are set to hit the skies in rural Washington State.
Amazon general counsel, Stephanie Burns, said in a public statement, “The outdoor-testing operations we seek in our petition for exemption [under the February 2015 framework] are a necessary step towards realizing the consumer benefits of Prime Air, as well as a step in unlocking the enormous potential of [drones]. Aerial delivery is poised to make goods available to consumers in a manner that is more environmentally friendly than current surface delivery methods, while improving overall safety of the transportation system.” Look out above.