Amazon is going on the offensive as it seeks federal approval to test its planned Prime Air drone delivery system, USA Today reports. Though you may not receive a drone-delivered package this year, the online retailer is making moves to spur development.
To facilitate drone use, Amazon recently came together with several makers of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to create a coalition. Writing for USA Today, Mike Snider explains that such efforts are necessary given the fact that the advancement of commercial drones spans across several federal agencies including the FAA, which governs airspace, and the FCC, with oversight of communications frequencies drones would use. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy also has rules in the works regarding privacy.
“Amazon Prime Air is participating in several groups… that share Congress’ goal of getting small UAVs flying commercially in the United States safely and soon,” said Paul Misener, Amazon Vice President of Global Public Policy.
For many, the term “drone” seems to conjure images of military use and war weaponry. As a result, the mere thought of these futuristic flying devices tends to pose security and privacy concerns to several people. When, however, UAVs used for defense purposes and those that may one day may buzz around the skies are quite different, and in fact, may change the world — for the better. According to ex-Wired editor and 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson, the (AVR-powered) DIY drone community will soon have more than 15,000 drones flying, compared to some 7,000 drones in use worldwide by military forces. Martha Stewart, known by many for her expertise in and around the home, has also shared her love for these flying robots in an essay that appeared on TIME Magazine’s website on July 29th, writing that drones could be “a useful tool.”
“This is uncharted territory,” says Anderson, Co-Founder of 3D Robotics. His firm recently announced that it had joined Amazon, Aerialtronics, Airware, DJI Innovations, Google[x], GoPro and Parrot in founding the small UAV coalition, which aspires to represent commercial uses of drones, establish a code of conduct and educate the public about benefits of the technology. “They [Amazon] have a well-established presence in Washington and they were able to kick-start the mechanics of this coalition so we could quickly join and get moving.” Anderson added that companies need a “safe sandbox” to begin testing applications.
Globally, drone spending is expected to increase from $6.4 billion this year to $11.5 billion annually a decade from now, as projected by aerospace and defense industry research firm the Teal Group. Both Amazon and the new coalition have retained Washington, D.C. law firm Akin Gump to assist in lobbying efforts. The online retail giant is already among two dozen other companies that have sought exemptions from the FAA to begin tests with drones that weigh less than 55 pounds and fly below 400 feet, USA Today reveals.
In its filing to the FAA, Amazon said that so far it has only been able to test its drones inside its Seattle R&D lab or in other countries. Its goal is to get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less via the rotor-powered flying machines. “One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks,” wrote Amazon’s v Misener in the filing.
“A number of companies are looking at getting into philanthropic purposes,” explains Michael Drobac, one of the lobbyists at Akin Gump. “They’re also looking at recreational uses, mapping and aerial photography — the possibilities are limitless.”
Drone potential goes far beyond package delivery; in fact, we recently listed 18 amazing ways the aerial vehicles are already being used today. Interested in learning more about drone use and the formation of the coalition? Read the entire USA Today article here.