Amazon’s dreams to deliver orders by drone are still grounded in the US but they seem to be just taking off in the UK. The UK Civil Aviation Authority approved allowing the online retailer to conduct drone flights extending beyond a pilot’s line of sight in both rural and suburban settings. It’s a crucial permission needed to roll out the Amazon’s Prime Air delivery service where shorter distance orders are shipped directly to customers via drones.
The UK regulator also granted Amazon permission to test sensors allowing drones to avoid obstacles and conduct trial flights where a single person operates multiple drones simultaneously.
“The UK is a leader in enabling drone innovation – we’ve been investing in Prime Air research and development here for quite some time,” said Paul Misener, Amazon’s Vice President of Global Innovation Policy and Communications. “This announcement strengthens our partnership with the UK and brings Amazon closer to our goal of using drones to safely deliver parcels in 30 minutes to customers in the UK and elsewhere around the world.”
As part of the partnership between Amazon and the UK the reports on the test flights will be used to form future drone policy and safety regulations.
Tim Johnson, the CAA’s policy director, added, “We want to enable the innovation that arises from the development of drone technology by safely integrating drones into the overall aviation system. These tests by Amazon will help inform our policy and future approach.”
Meanwhile, Amazon has not been able to secure the same permissions from the US government to carry out drone deliveries there. Nationwide drone regulations have come at a slow pace as the country grapples with whether the federal government has the authority to override existing state provisions. The Federal Aviation Administration recently released a comprehensive set of rules to regulate commercial drones in June 2016. But the rules state operators cannot let the drone leave their line of sight, thereby dashing any hopes Amazon had of testing flights in American airspace.
Amazon has put a huge focus on Prime Air since debuting the project in 2013. It’s the reason why the company has been looking to other countries for testing. Aside from the UK, the company has also been testing drones in Canada and the Netherlands.
And not just Amazon, but other companies have a stake in the outcome of future drone regulations. Walmart is looking into a delivery service using the technology and 7-Eleven already made one commercial drone delivery on July 23 in Reno, Nevada.