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Amazon.com Sees Drone Approval As A Setback

by Scott Costa, Publisher, tED magazine

Have you ever made par on a hole in golf, and then walked off the green and realize you really didn’t hit one shot the way you wanted to? You’ll take the score, but it really doesn’t feel like a victory.

That’s a little similar to the way Amazon feels right now about the Federal Aviation Administration’s announcement that it will allow companies to begin testing the use of drones to deliver products. Sure, Amazon can now let their un-manned small craft take off and simulate delivering packages for the first time.  But…

The drones can only be 400 feet off the ground, maximum.
The person at the controls must hold a private pilot’s certificate.
The weather has to be clear.
The drones must always been seen by the person flying it.

400 feet off the ground isn’t very high. That will make it safe for other aircraft in the area. But testing a drone at 400 feet isn’t really doing much of a test at all.

The private pilot’s certificate part is just strange, and paves the way for tougher restrictions on people who fly drones for a hobby.

Who determines if the weather is clear enough for a drone test? The local TV weather person? The FAA? How long will it take to get the OK that the weather is clear enough?

And if you have to see the drone delivering a package the entire time, you might as well just deliver that package yourself.

Just four days after the FAA announced that Amazon can begin test flights, Amazon fired back that the slow decision-making in Washington, D.C. and the added restrictions are keeping the Amazon Prime Air program grounded. The prototype drone Amazon wanted to use to deliver packages has already become obsolete, and it has started to test a newer model in other countries that are more accepting of drone flights. In fact, Amazon its not even testing the original drone it designed to deliver packages. Instead, the online giant has taken its newly designed drone to other countries, where Amazon claims the new drones have been test flying for nearly two months.

Meanwhile, the Republican-led Senate Sub-Committee on Aviation Operations will plan another drones hearing at an undetermined date to look into the Amazon complaints. But, the FAA does not plan to finalize regulations impacting drones until late in 2016 or early 2017, according to government officials.

Meanwhile, Amazon will have to accept the small victory the FAA gave it last week, and play the waiting game for looser restrictions.

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