While U.S. regulations are extremely limiting for Amazon's hopes to use drones to deliver packages in the future, the company has begun laying out its plans for how drones will be used.
The blueprint for an air-traffic system will essentially see zones in which drones would be allowed to operate. The drones would have to fly at low altitude and must agree to be tracked.
The proposal by Amazon is very similar to ideas offered by Google and NASA itself. The plans essentially show a "superhighway" for drones in the sky, in which all drones would have to fly different altitudes depending on their speed and would all have the ability to communicate and avoid other drones in the sky.
The fast lane for drones would be between 200 and 400 feet above ground, and this would be reserved for quick-moving drones going long distances. Under 200 feet would be designated for slower, local drones. There would also be "no fly zones," which would be above 400 feet and anywhere near airports. While some commercial drone operators have pushed for the ability to fly larger UAVs above 400 feet, Amazon is not entertaining that idea for now.
The team at NASA is heading up the effort to create a drone air-traffic system, currently being called Unmanned Aerial System Traffic Management. Over 100 companies have said they would like to take part in NASA's efforts, and around 14 companies have even signed agreements to partner with the agency. These companies include the likes of Google, Amazon and Verizon.
According to Amazon, drones need to have the equivalent of flight plans and be able to communicate with each other in order to avoid collisions with each other and with traditional aircraft.
Commercial aircraft have a central command center governed by the Federal Aviation Administration, and according to Amazon's vision for the future, drones would have a similar control network. Drones would also be able to communicate with each other to avoid collision. Access to layers of the traffic system would be offered based on the drone's ability to communicate with the drone's pilot, the control network and other drones.
"Everyone can have access to the airspace," said Amazon Prime Air head Gur Kimchi in an interview with The Verge. "It doesn't matter if you're a hobbyist or a corporation. If you've got the right equipment, you can fly."
This communication would also help drones be able to get out of the way of larger aircraft. While drones will remain under 400 feet, which will keep them away from planes, in rare cases such as an emergency helicopter landing, drones would know to get out of the way.
Only time will tell if we see commercial drones in the air anytime soon, however, if these plans are put into motion we could see drones delivering out packages sooner than expected.
Via: The Verge