Amazon asks US government for permission to test 50mph drones

Amazon has sent an official request to the American Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to be allowed to test its new drone fleet in its own testing grounds.

Currently, Amazon's experiments in its nascent drone technology have been carried out only at one of the six testing sites designated by the FAA. Amazon argues that being able to test the drones in its own backyard will allow it to innovate faster and improve the designs of its drone technology.

"We want to do more R&D (research and development) close to home," VP of Global Public Policy Paul Misener said in a statement.

The request for exemption from the FAA's restrictions included an update on Amazon's drone programme progress over the last five months, including developing drone prototypes that can travel over 50 miles per hour while carrying a 5-pound (2.2kg) package. The company is also testing two more iterations of the flying robots for things like agility, flight duration, and special sensors for avoiding objects.

Amazon has been testing drone technology with increasing sincerity recently, apparently with the final aim of delivering packages to homes by drone. The plan, which met with much cynicism when it was announced in the run-up to Christmas last year, seems to be very much a serious proposition.

In fact, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos announced in April that the company's delivery drones had entered into the 8th generation of design.

Bezos claims that Amazon's drone programme is expected to go live in the next 4-5 years. While 4-5 years might be a little optimistic, there's no doubt that we're moving towards a future that is increasingly ruled by autonomous robots and vehicles.

There are absolutely massive gains to be made by speeding up and automating the retail experience, from warehouse to doorstep and every stage in between – gains that Amazon and other retail giants are guaranteed to take advantage of.