Seattle-based Amazon, the giant online shopping giant, won Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to operate its fleet of Prime Air delivery drones on August 31, 2020. This means getting an Amazon package delivered from the sky is closer to becoming a reality — as it opens the doors to a major transformation in the ways businesses deliver products.
Amazon made it clear that this approval is an “important step,” but it is still testing and flying the drones and did not say when it expected drones to actually make deliveries available to shoppers.
Amazon has been working on drone delivery for many years, but regulatory hurdles have stood in the way until now. As early as December 2013, Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, made it clear in a TV interview that drones would be flying to customer’s homes within five years. He almost hit the mark!
Amazon displayed self-piloting drones that are fully electric, that can carry 5 pounds of goods and are designed to deliver items in 30 minutes by dropping them in a backyard.
Companies must obtain Part 135 certification, which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) originally created for charter airlines and later adapted for drones in order to “carry the property of another for compensation” by drones in the U.S.
According to the FAA, Amazon is the third drone delivery service to obtain flight approval, whereas delivery company UPS, and a company owned by search giant, Google, won approval in 2019.
Many feel the FAA needs to streamline the process and update its rules to better reflect current technology.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for modern delivery systems more acute as millions of Americans have been compelled to stay home to try to curb the spread of the virus. Online shopping has become more important than ever, but for the older generation in particular, those at highest risk, have relied on delivery services to buy groceries, order meals, and shop for other essential items, without entering a physical store and thereby risking infection.
Amazon committed to making drone deliveries of packages weighing 5 pounds or less in areas with low population density as part of its goal to shorten delivery times to 30 minutes or less.
Amazon’s approval for Prime Air delivery drones is a very important step toward the next big innovation in package delivery and a major step forward for e-commerce.