Amazon has been given permission to test its delivery drone technology in suburban and rural areas of the UK.
It hopes the tests will advance its own drone technology and help inform future regulation, paving the way for commercial drone deliveries to be regulated and commonplace.
“This ground-breaking work will help Amazon and the government understand how drones can be used safely and reliably in the logistics industry [and] help identify what operating rules and safety regulations will be needed,” Amazon said.
The company hopes one day customers will be able to have small packages flown to them by drone within 30 minutes of being ordered online, what it calls its Prime Air service.
In partnership with the UK government and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Amazon will test drone flights beyond line of sight in suburban and rural areas.
It will also test obstacle identification technology and flights where one operator controls multiple “highly-automated” drones, Amazon has said.
Current UK regulations prohibit operators to fly drones beyond their line of sight, over congested areas or within 50 metres of people, vehicles or buildings. Drones heavier than 20 kg are subject to “the whole of the UK aviation regulations”, the CAA says on its website.
However, the CAA has the authority to make exemptions.
Amazon said the CAA would be “fully involved” in its drone tests, and said the test outcomes will help inform the development of future regulations for delivery drones.
“We want to enable the innovation that arises from the development of drone technology by safely integrating drones into the overall aviation system... These tests by Amazon will help inform our policy and future approach,” said Tim Johnson, policy director at CAA.
“The UK is a leader in enabling drone innovation, we’ve been investing in Prime Air research and development here for quite some time” said Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global innovation policy and communications.
He added: “Using small drones for the delivery of parcels will improve customer experience, create new jobs… and pioneer new sustainable delivery methods to meet future demand.”
A spokesman for the CAA said: “[The drones] are allowed to go beyond line of sight but it’s in a controlled environment so anything beneath the test area will be controlled.”
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