Amazon is expected to start its drone -delivery service in the near future only if granted permission from the FAA to provide drones certificate of airworthiness.
Amazon is not the only company with its eyes on drone delivery. UPS applied for the same exemption with the FAA last month and Alphabet’s Wing Aviation was given clearance in April to begin deliveries from commercial businesses to personal residences in Virginia.
These recent applications and approvals are a sign of significant momentum after multiple companies, along with state and local governments, worked to test the feasibility of various drone applications in the FAA drone Integration Pilot Program — the effort is currently in its second year out of a planned three. Wing’s approval earlier this year was a sign the FAA is confident in what it has seen in this early testing, and these newer applications show other companies are eager to keep up.
How the drone delivery service works
Amazon’s Prime Air service would use drones capable of carrying up to five pounds to deliver packages to customers within 30 minutes or less, according to the retailer’s petition. Amazon frames this as also being beneficial for the FAA, saying the agency would be able to use it to collect data on the future of drone cargo delivery.
The company also wants to use its custom MK27 drone for deliveries before the FAA grants the aircraft a certificate of airworthiness, as well as an exemption from drone-specific rules, specifically the rule requiring the drone only be operated when an operator can see it. Besides listing all the exemptions, the petition also states delivery drones will fly autonomously, or without human input, but that there will be one operator for each drone in the sky at any time. Amazon would eventually change to a lower drone-operator ratio – “subject to FAA approval based on flights and simulations that demonstrate required levels of safety.”
Deliveries will be less than 15 nautical miles round trip and packages must weigh 5 pounds or less — parameters the company has previously outlined, but detailed in the petition Amazon requests.
Amazon is seeking exemptions from the FAA to operate its Prime Air drone delivery service as an air carrier under the agency’s Part 135 regulations. Amazon seeks relief to allow it to conduct operations with an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), to enable its commercial delivery operations using UAS.
Operators of business aircraft that wish to conduct operations for compensation or hire are generally certificated under Part 135 of the FARs(Federal Aviation Regulation). As a certificate holding entity, the operator must comply with a number of FAA requirements regarding areas such as flight operations, maintenance, and training. The FAA posted a summary of the petition seeking relief from specified requirements of Federal Aviation Regulations in the Federal Register on August 8, 2019. The public has until August 28, 2019 to comment on the petition.