Amazon’s drone delivery programme – which the company claimed would start “within months” more than a year ago – has won regulatory approval for trial flights in the US.
The US Federal Aviation Administration has awarded the company a certification to trial commercial flights of its drones, although Amazon hasn’t confirmed precisely what tests will take place.
The company’s delivery drones, which were expected to launch in 2019, can fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds (2.2kg) in less than 30 minutes – but only during the day and in clear weather.
They have wings and a rotor so they can fly like both a quadcopter and an aeroplane, allowing them to take off and land vertically and also glide horizontally.
Amazon says they will be piloted by on-board autonomous technologies so they can detect static obstacles like chimneys, as well as moving objects.
Amazon’s first ever drone delivery took place in Cambridge in the UK back in December 2016, but this was a test for which the company had special permission.
The FAA certification, first reported on by Bloomberg, has also been awarded to other companies which have expressed an interest in drone deliveries.
The regulations regarding the drone flights are stringent and adapted from laws covering use of airspace for passenger planes, although the drones themselves are unmanned.
More formal regulations covering the test flights and ultimately the commercial use of unmanned drones are expected to be published later this year.