Since Jeff Bezos announced Amazon’s plans for a drone delivery service back in 2013, the general public has seen little (read: basically nothing at all) in the way of progress towards that feat. This weekend, however, the company passed one of its biggest legal hurdles with the Federal Aviation Administration, putting it on a path towards finally taking to the skies.
Earning the FAA’s endorsement — The FAA’s granting of a Part 135 air carrier certificate to Amazon’s Prime Air allows the company to begin limited, trial program drone deliveries, although where and when that will actually commence remains unknown. Regardless, awarding the certificate is a clear public indication of the FAA’s belief that Prime Air drone services are safe and reliable enough to start testing flying robots carrying heavy objects over our fragile heads. Per their statement:
On August 29, the FAA issued Amazon Prime Air a Part 135 air carrier certificate using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Amazon Prime Air’s concept uses autonomous UAS to safely and efficiently deliver packages to customers.
The FAA’s role is to ensure that any UAS operation is performed safely. The FAA supports innovation that is beneficial to the public, especially during a health or weather-related crisis.
The end goal, per the incomprehensibly, infuriatingly wealthy Bezos, is to offer 30-minute-or-less small deliveries via drones, but even with the recent FAA certificate, most estimates put actual widespread implementation at least a few years down the road. Previously, Amazon reportedly hoped to have Prime Air drone deliveries in the skies by the end of this month, so they’re already running a bit behind schedule in that department, at least.
Air traffic delays — Part of the delays probably have something to do with Prime Air also facing internal shake-ups in recent months, with former Boeing exec, David Carbon, stepping in to replace the company arm’s VP, Gur Kimchi, back in March. Amazon Robotics leader and Prime Air collaborator (and anti-workers’ rights dweeb), Brad Porter, also reportedly resigned earlier in August.
Prime Air currently faces competition for drone delivery dominance in both UPS and Google Wing (whose drones can fly up to 65 mph, by the way). Both already have received the FAA’s Part 135 certificate, so the race is truly on to who will be the first to accidentally brain an unsuspecting citizen from sixty-feet up in the air, resulting in lawsuits to inevitably shut the whole thing down again for God knows how long.