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Amazon Faults FAA for Sluggishness of Drone Testing Approval Process

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

The U.S. is at risk of falling behind other countries when it comes to the testing of unmanned aircrafts (UAS), Amazon told U.S. regulators this week.

And the Federal Aviation Administration is at fault because the agency takes too long to give its authorization for commercial drone regulations, Amazon vice-president for global public policy Paul Misener told the Senate aviation subcommittee Tuesday.

“Although the United States is catching up in permitting current commercial UAS testing, the United States remains behind in planning for future commercial UAS operations,” Misener said as part of his testimony.

“We are grateful for the FAA’s newly-released NPRM, so far as it goes. But it doesn’t go far enough. Unlike the planning by the national and multinational groups with whom I met in Europe earlier this month, the FAA is not adequately addressing compelling UAS applications that involve highly automated operations beyond visual line of sight.”

Misener’s testimony before the Senate committee comes just days after the FAA gave Amazon the green light to test its Prime Air delivery drones outdoors for research, development and crew training purposes.

The problem, Misener said, is that prototype Amazon was approved to test has become obsolete because the process to receive approval is so slow.

“Obtaining permission took far too long, and certainly much longer – over half a year – than it took in other countries,” Misener said. “We don’t test it anymore. We’ve moved on to more-advanced designs that we already are testing abroad.”

Amazon last Friday applied for a permit to test an updated aircraft and, Misener said, the company is hoping “permission will be granted quickly.”

Misener’s testimony came the same day the FAA announced it has adopted a new policy to speed up airspace authorizations for commercial drone use by operators that obtain an exemption.

“Under the new policy, the FAA will grant a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for flights at or below 200 feet to any UAS operator with a Section 333 exemption for aircraft that weigh less than 55 pounds, operate during daytime Visual Flight Rules (VFR) conditions, operate within visual line of sight (VLOS) of the pilots, and stay certain distances away from airports or heliports,” reads an FAA press release.

Amazon asked the FAA in December 2013 for an exemption from the regulations that prevented the eCommerce giant from testing drones in the U.S. The agency last Thursday granted that request, awarding Amazon an experimental airworthiness certificate.

Amazon announced at the end of 2013 it hoped to use autonomous ‘octocopters’ — essentially a small drone — that relies on GPS to deliver customers’ packages from nearby fulfillment centers. The initiative, dubbed Amazon PrimeAir, will only be used to deliver packages that weigh five pounds or less.

The drones will travel faster than 50 miles per hour, Amazon said. Working on the development team are world‐renowned roboticists, scientists, aeronautical engineers, remote sensing experts, and a former NASA astronaut.

The company’s goal is to make its octocopters a common sight in the skies.

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Jennifer Cowan

Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.

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