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Amazon’s drone delivery plans hit by FAA’s new draft rules

RBR Staff Writer Published 17 February 2015

Amazon's plans of launching Prime Air drone delivery service have taken a hit with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) new rules that would require operators to keep the flying machines in their line of sight.

drone

FAA's new draft rules stipulate that pilots of commercial unmanned aircraft need to see the drone with "unaided vision" and that small drones must not fly over people.

The FAA has also proposed limiting drone flights to an altitude of 500 feet and a speed of no faster than 100 miles per hour. An operator would have to be at least 17 years old, passed an aeronautical knowledge test and be FAA-certified to operate the machines.

The rules are still open to public consultation though, with the regulatory body clarifying that they are meant to be flexible enough to let drones be used for commercial purposes in future and that a second line of sight will be factored for few cases.

They will take a couple of years to be implemented.

FAA administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement: "We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules.

"We want to maintain today's outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry."

Amazon, however, is undeterred by the development and remains committed to its plans for drone delivery.

In an email to CNBC, Amazon vice-president of global public policy Paul Misener wrote: "The FAA needs to begin and expeditiously complete the formal process to address the needs of our business, and ultimately our customers.

"We are committed to realizing our vision for Prime Air and are prepared to deploy where we have the regulatory support we need."

Amazon began drone trials in 2013, conducting tests at an indoor facility in Washington State, with the target of delivery within 30 minutes or less, reports BBC and has been pushing FAA to allow it to do outdoor trials.

Various other companies are also testing drones in other parts of the globe. China's e-commerce giant Alibaba recently conducted drone deliveries earlier this month, and last year, German-based company Deutsche Post DHL said it was also carrying out trials. Google has also been testing drone deliveries in Australia.

Meanwhile, the Small UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Coalition has welcomed the new proposals and sought clarification on few points.

Image: Amazon's drone delivery plans take a hit with FAA's new rules. Photo courtsey of Freedigitalphotos.net.