Amazon Finally Gains FAA Approval To Test Innovative ‘Prime Air’ Delivery Drones

Amazon won approval from the Federal Aviation Administration this week to test its new delivery drones. The planned service, known as Amazon Prime Air, will reduce purchase-to-delivery times to hours or even minutes, thanks to an army of flying drones.

If the FAA’s approval sounds like old news, you’re thinking of the FAA’s first approval notice, which related to an outdated Amazon drone model. After Amazon complained that the FAA’s approval process wasn’t keeping up with rapidly-changing drone technology, the agency revised its policy.

Amazon Prime Air resumes testing

“The new approach will speed up Section 333 exemption approvals for many commercial UAS operators,” the FAA stated in its explanation of the FAA Summary Grants rule. “Although the FAA still reviews each Section 333 petition individually, the agency can issue a summary grant when it finds it has already granted a previous exemption similar to the new request.”

One change to the FAA rules is that third-class medical certificates are no longer needed by the FAA for drone pilots. But another rule that could cause headaches for Amazon remains in effect: the pilot must maintain line-of-sight with the drone at all times. When Amazon is ready to take its Prime Air service public, that’s a rule that it will likely need to change.

For now, Amazon can test Prime Air drones, so long as it keeps them in sight and keeps drone speeds to under 100 mph. Amazon also needs to keep its payloads under 55 pounds. That enough to handle the delivery of an Xbox One and some accessories.