Amazon Petitions FAA To Permit Drone Testing

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On July 9, 2014, Amazon Prime Air petitioned the FAA for an exemption to allow private research and development flight testing of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) outdoors on its private property near Seattle, Wash. In its petition, Amazon states that the operating rules it will follow will be no different than those followed by thousands of model aircraft hobbyists currently daily: maximum weights will not exceed 55 pounds, and all test flights will be within visual line of sight of the operator and/or one or more observers, at less than 400 feet AGL, in Class G airspace and sufficient distance away from any airport, heliport, seaplane base, spaceport or other location with aviation activities and any densely populated areas and government or military installations.

In the petition, Amazon Prime Air stated that its testing to date has had to be indoors or in other countries and that it would prefer to keep the focus, jobs and investment in its R&D initiative in the United States as it works toward its goal of sUAS delivery of lightweight packages to customers in under 30 minutes. Amazon Prime Air pointed out in the petition that it shares Congress’s goal of getting small aerial vehicles flying commercially in the United States safely and soon and emphasized that Congress has directed the FAA “to safely accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system,” and that under the law, the FAA has the power to grant innovators “expedited operational authorization” to do so.