Amazon.com has asked the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration permission to test drones outdoors for use in its Prime Air package delivery service.
In the run up to launching the service, which aims to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less, the online retailer is developing aerial vehicles that travel over 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour, and will carry 5pound (2.3 kilogram) payloads, which account for 86 percent of the products sold on Amazon.
U.S. regulations currently allow non-commercial, hobbyist uses of model aircraft under certain conditions, but the FAA has been exploring giving exemptions to seven aerial photo and video production companies for filming movies, ahead of finalizing rules for the integration of commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace.
Amazon has been currently experimenting with Prime Air inside its research and development lab in Seattle, the company said in its exemption application to the FAA. As it is a commercial enterprise, it has been limited to conducting test flights indoors or in other countries, it said. The company said it would prefer to keep the focus, jobs and investment for the program in the U.S.
The retailer said that granting its request for exemption would do no more than allow Amazon to do what thousands of hobbyists and manufacturers of model aircraft already do every day. It said it will abide by much stronger safety measures than currently required for these groups by FAA policies and regulations.