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December 9, 2014

Amazon Threatens to Take Drone Research Overseas if FAA Denies Outdoors Testing

Amazon image — Amazon's upcoming initiative, PrimeAir, will use drones to deliver packages to customers' homes.

Amazon wants its Prime Air drones in the air as soon as possible and, in a bid to achieve its goals, has written a snarky letter to the Federal Aviation Administration threatening to move its testing overseas unless the agency gives it the green light to test outside — and soon.

So far, the majority of the company’s Prime Air research and development efforts, including flight testing operations, have been conducted inside its laboratory and indoor testing facilities in Washington State.

But, according to Amazon vice-president of global public policy Paul Misener, the great indoors is no longer cutting it.

Amazon first asked the FAA to exempt it from the regulations that keep the eCommerce giant from testing drones in the U.S. back in July and Misener has now penned a letter to the FAA to protest the agency’s continued ban on outdoor testing.

“Without the ability to test outdoors in the United States soon, we will have no choice but to divert even more of our [drone] research and development resources abroad,” Misener wrote in the missive, which is posted on Regulations.gov.

Misener said the non-U.S. facilities enable Amazon to “quickly build and modify our Prime Air vehicles as we construct new designs and make improvements” but added that it is Amazon’s “continued desire to also pursue fast-paced innovation in the United States, which would include the creation of high-quality jobs and significant investment in the local community.”

Amazon made waves in December 2013 after announcing it hoped to use autonomous ‘octocopters’ — essentially a small drone — that relies on GPS to deliver customers’ packages from nearby fulfillment centers. The initiative, which has been dubbed Amazon Prime Air, will only be used to deliver packages that weigh five pounds or less.

Amazon, in it’s July request letter to the FAA, said being granted the chance to test the drones outdoors is no different than those who fly model airplanes.

“One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today, resulting in enormous benefits for consumers across the nation,” Amazon added. “We respectfully submit this petition for exemption so that Prime Air can be ready to launch commercial operations as soon as eventually permitted by subsequent FAA action.”

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Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.

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