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FAA clears Amazon drones to operate more widely, European operations imminent   

Global e-commerce giant Amazon has announced that the US Federal Aviation Authority has granted its Prime Air division approval to conduct drone delivery operations ‘beyond visual line of sight’ (BVLOS) in the US for the first time.  

The move will allow the company to operate its drones over much greater distances to expand and develop its drone-based delivery operations across the US.  

“To obtain this permission, we developed a BVLOS strategy, including an onboard detect-and-avoid technology,” said a company statement issued on May 24, 2024.  “We’ve spent years developing, testing, and refining our onboard detect-and-avoid system to ensure our drones can detect and avoid obstacles in the air.”  

According to the company, eleven years on from commencing drone feasibility and four years after receiving the initial FAA Air Carrier Certificate award enabling it to operate effectively as an airline and deliver small packages via drone, Prime Air is now in a position to increase its network of drone deliveries across Texas and California using its MK-27 drone, and safely scale operations to more US destinations.  

Amazon is planning to operate drones near its same-day delivery sites to guarantee faster delivery times and offer a greater range of products via drone delivery. The company has been using drones to deliver packages weighing up to five pounds (approximately 2.2 kilograms) in one hour or less, since the middle of 2023. Items offered for delivery by drone include household products, everyday essentials, beauty items, and office/tech supplies. 

The FAA permissions came after Amazon presented the results of its BVLOS strategy including crucial engineering information regarding the design, operation, maintenance, and validation of its BVLOS system, including onboard detect-and-avoid capabilities to the FAA.   

Additionally, flight demonstrations were conducted in the presence of FAA inspectors, carried out to demonstrate safe navigation performance in real-world scenarios, such as in the presence of real planes, helicopters, and a hot air balloon. 

Amazon Prime Air

“Our vision has remained unchanged since we started working on Prime Air: to create a safe and scalable way to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using highly autonomous drones,” continued the Prime Air statement. “To achieve our goal of delivering 500 million packages, per year, by drone, by the end of this decade, we knew we had to design a system capable of serving highly populated areas and that was safer than driving to the store. We’re excited to launch this next chapter for Prime Air,” the statement concludes. 

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, Amazon customers in the UK and Italy will soon have the option to get their packages delivered by drone. The Prime Air drone delivery system is expanding to the two countries by the end of 2024 and will also expand to further cities in the US by the end of 2025.   

Amazon Prime Air

“As part of our continued efforts to innovate for customers, we are excited to announce the expansion of Prime Air delivery internationally, for the first time outside the US,” said David Carbon, Vice President of Amazon Prime Air. “We have been delivering packages by drone for almost a year in California and Texas. We have built a safe, reliable delivery service and have partnered very closely with regulators and communities. We will continue with that collaboration into the future to ensure we are meeting the needs of our customers and the communities we serve.” 

“In addition to the new delivery sites, Prime Air is unveiling the new MK30 drone design, which is quieter, smaller, and lighter, than previous models. We’re also announcing that drone deliveries will be integrated into Amazon’s delivery network, meaning drones will deploy from some same-day delivery sites. In the UK and Italy, we will start integrating into some of our fulfilment centers, which will provide Amazon customers with faster delivery of an even greater selection of items. We will start with one site in each location and expand over time,” he added. 

Amazon Prime Air

“We are working closely with national regulators and international regulators, and communities in the EU, Italy, the UK, and the US, to develop this program. We have committed the necessary time and resources to build a safe and scalable service. We have refined the technology and are now building the right infrastructure to ensure the service provides the ultimate convenience for our customers.”  

“We’ve also taken great care to ensure that our drones’ design philosophy and demonstrated levels of safety are setting a higher bar for safety across the commercial drone delivery industry, working closely with regulators to design to the highest standard set within those regulations,” Carbon concluded. 

The post FAA clears Amazon drones to operate more widely, European operations imminent    appeared first on AeroTime.

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