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Amazon Asks Permission To Test Drone Delivery

On Thursday, July 10, Amazon.com formally requested permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to start testing drones indoors and outdoors. The move is the next step for the online distributor’s effort to use drones to deliver packages across the country.

It is also an interesting step, considering recent speculation that the announcement by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wasn’t really trying to use drones for delivery.  Bezos used the opportunity during a 60 Minutes interview to introduce the drone idea.  But during the NAED National Meeting in San Francisco earlier this summer, author Brad Stone believed that was part of a different strategy.

Stone wrote the book, “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” in 2013.  He is the only journalist and author to ever be allowed inside of Amazon’s headquarters to report on the daily happenings there.

During Stone’s speech to approximately 400 people at the NAED National Meeting, Stone speculated that the real reason why Bezos introduced the drone idea was not to change his delivery methods, but to attract forward thinking future employees and executives to Amazon.  By showing that Amazon was looking into innovative ways to deliver products, Stone speculates that Bezos was able to make Amazon more attractive to the next generation of his executives.  Stone also added that most of the deliveries by drones would be done on a local level, and Bezos already has an infrastructure in place to make those deliveries both quickly and inexpensively.

But, Amazon has posted a number of jobs related to the Prime Air program, including a software engineer, patent lawyer and spokesman.  And, the July 10 request to the FAA also shows Amazon is ready to take the next step toward “Amazon Prime Air” delivery. The plan would allow Amazon to deliver packages within 30 minutes. 

The request says Amazon is now on its eighth and ninth generation of its drone prototype, and can deliver 5 pound packages at speeds reaching 50 miles an hour.  Nearly 90% of all packages delivered by Amazon are lighter than 5 pounds.

The request asks the FAA for permission to test the unmanned drones near its Seattle headquarters. Amazon Vice-President of Global Public Policy Paul Misener wrote in the request, “Amazon Prime Air is one invention we are incredibly passionate about. We believe customers will love it, and we are committed to making Prime Air available to customers world-wide as soon as we are permitted to do so. One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today.”

To this point, Amazon is only testing its drones indoors or in other countries, but expressed the interest in testing them near Seattle in order to keep jobs and the investment here in the United States.

The Amazon request also says it will limit the number of tests and test only away from airports, military installations and neighborhoods. It will only test the drones over Amazon’s private property.

The FAA allows the recreational use of drones but prohibits their commercial use without its approval.

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