UK Approves Amazon Plan to Run Delivery Drone Tests Banned in U.S.
NEWS ANALYSIS: The UK Civil Aviation Authority gave its OK for flight tests of Amazon delivery drones, including autonomous operations banned in the United States.Amazon and British aviation authorities have reached agreement on a series of tests of drones designed to deliver packages to customers. The new drone tests will include operations beyond the line-of-sight of the operator, which currently is prohibited in the United States. Other tests will include sensor performance to test whether the drones can see and avoid obstacles, and tests on how well one operator can control multiple drones. Amazon plans to try out a number of different drone designs and delivery mechanisms, said Kristen Kish, an Amazon spokesperson. However, she wasn't willing to go into too many details about the company's research. "What I can say is that it brings us one step closer to realizing this amazing innovation for our customers," she added in an email to eWEEK. "Some of the testing will start right away," Kish said. "We've been investing in Prime Air research and development in the U.K. for quite a while now and these tests are just a natural progression of our activities."
So far such testing has not been possible in the United States. The FAA released its latest commercial drone rules last month and, while the rules do allow drone freight delivery, they don't currently allow operations beyond the line of sight. Reached for details about Amazon's drone delivery research, FAA spokesperson Alison Duquette told eWEEK that the agency also is working on ways to further the commercial use of unmanned aircraft.