Amazon Awaiting FAA Decision on UAS Testing

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For those who thought Amazon.com was not serious about its plans to deliver packages with Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), its petition to the FAA for an exemption to test them outdoors near Seattle, Washington, has been pending since July 9. With the FAA’s recent approval of some petitions for exemption for UAS in the movie industry, and the pressure on the FAA to act on UAS petitions, industry watchers are expecting action on Amazon’s petition in the near future. In its request for an exemption, Amazon said it has been doing indoor testing of its eighth- and ninth-generation vehicles, including “agility, flight duration, redundancy and sense-and avoid sensors and algorithms.” It said it is developing aerial vehicles that “travel over 50 MPH and will carry five-pound payloads, which cover 86 percent of the products sold on Amazon.”

According to the petition, among the proposed safeguards for the operations are that the UAS to be tested will weigh less than 55 pounds, the flights will be conducted within line of sight of the operator who will hold a private pilot certificate or “equivalent,” and the UAS will safely stop operating and return automatically to a specific location on Amazon’s private property if the communication link is lost. Amazon told the FAA that it prefers to keep the jobs and investment associated with its UAS research in the U.S. by conducting its outdoor research on its property near Seattle. There have been only a few public comments on Amazon’s petition for exemption, most by organizations that support UAS operations, and most have been favorable.