Liftoff! Amazon gets permission from UK to explore drone deliveries

On Monday, global online giant Amazon announced it had entered into a partnership with the UK government to speed up the process of making drone delivery a reality.

Already with plans to start using drones for deliveries by 2017, Amazon said a cross-government team, supported by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, had provided it with the permissions necessary to explore the process of drone deliveries “beyond line of sight” in several rural and suburban areas.

Amazon has also received permission from the government to test the performance of sensors to ensure that drones can avoid obstacles, as well as tests where one person operates multiple drones.

The drone at the Amazon warehouse ready to be sent off on delivery

The drone at the Amazon warehouse ready to be sent off on delivery

Small, unmanned aircraft will be tested at altitudes of up to 400ft and at a distance of up to 10 miles. Test areas have not been disclosed but they will be “small, defined locations”. No time frame for the test period has been given but it is understood that it could be between one and two years.

Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice-president of global public policy, said the UK was “a leader in enabling drone innovation” and that the announcement had strengthened the partnership between Amazon and the UK.

Amazon hopes to eventually operate a commercial fleet that can safely deliver items weighing up to 2.3kg (5lb) in half an hour or less.

Amazon already has research and development facilities in the UK, Austria and Israel where work on drone technology is taking place and has been testing outdoors in other locations such as Canada, but this will be the first official testing programme in the UK.

The US Federal Aviation Administration said last month the use of drones for deliveries will require separate regulation from their general use. Currently, US authorities do not allow drones to be flown out of sight of the operator. Wal-Mart Stores said last month it was six to nine months from beginning to use drones to check warehouse inventories in the US.

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