Neither Snow Nor Rain Nor Heat — Yet the FAA Slows Amazon’s Drones

Photograph by Amazon via AP Images

This undated image provided by Amazon.com shows the so-called Prime Air unmanned aircraft project that Amazon is working on in its research and development labs.

Jeff Bezos, meet the FAA.

The entrepreneur behind Amazon.com may have his eyes on the skies, with a vision of ultra-swift delivery of goods by drones.

Yet the Federal Aviation Administration plans to bar operation of unmanned aircraft flying a computerized flight path instead of being controlled by a person, according to an agency document released Nov. 7 outlining plans for integrating the vehicles into the nation’s airways, Bloomberg’s Alan Levin and Mary Schlangenstein report.

Autonomous drone operations are “not currently allowed in the United States,” the FAA said today in an e-mailed statement.

The agency, which doesn’t yet allow commercial drone use in the U.S., didn’t comment directly on Amazon’s concept.

Bezos said on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” that the multirotor devices Amazon calls octocopters may be ready in four or five years. The company is waiting for the FAA to set rules for the devices, he said. While Congress required the FAA to create rules by 2015,  FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said last month that full integration may take longer.

The company has already reached out to the aviation regulation agency, Mary Osako, a company spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

“Small drones, like the one demonstrated by Bezos on 60 Minutes… are expected to have separate rules requiring they be flown within sight of an operator and only in unpopulated areas, Ben Gielow, general counsel of the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International, an Arlington, Virginia-based trade group, said in an interview.

“It’s unclear whether those commercial purposes will be allowed,” Gielow said.

 

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