Amazon has been awarded an Experimental Airworthiness Certificate by the Federal Aviation Administration, essentially allowing the company to conduct outdoor research.
For over a year, Amazon has wanted to use drones as a means of delivery, announcing its plans to use drones back in December 2013. The company began experimenting with drones outside of the U.S. in order to avoid going against FAA regulations, but now it will be able to conduct those experiments on home soil.
"The Federal Aviation Administration today issued an experimental airworthiness certificate to an Amazon Logistics, Inc. unmanned aircraft (UAS) design that the company will use for research and development and crew training," said the FAA in a statement.
The FAA has been making a number of drone-related announcements in the last few months. Just last month it published a new set of rules for drones and drone operators. These rules seemingly put a damper on Amazon's plans to implement Prime Air, however this latest announcement suggests that the e-commerce giant's plans will not be scrapped. The FAA is set to vote on these new rules later this year.
Despite this, the new certificate that was awarded to Amazon will not really allow it to conduct full-scale delivery experiments, with a number of restrictions being applied to the company.
"Under the provisions of the certificate, all flight operations must be conducted at 400 feet or below during daylight hours in visual meteorological conditions," continued the FAA. "The UAS must always remain within visual line-of-sight of the pilot and observer. The pilot actually flying the aircraft must have at least a private pilot's certificate and current medical certification."
Clearly, allowing Amazon to only fly drones under 400 feet with a pilot having to have view of the drone at all times will not give the company permission to deliver products using drones. But it is still a step forward for Amazon.
Amazon has been incredibly gung-ho about its drone project since first announcing it, and for good reason. The system could cut down on a lot of delivery costs for users, encouraging them to purchase more from Amazon. It could also allow users to order a product and get that product delivered to their front door within a matter of hours, rather than having to wait a few days or more for their new purchase to arrive.
The new certificate is not without restrictions of its own, however. Amazon will have to report back to the FAA on a monthly basis. The FAA is likely to continue to keep a close eye on drone systems such as this in the near future, however, it is largely expected that as technology gets better the administration will lighten up and the likes of Amazon will be able to introduce Prime Air.