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Amazon Prime Air drone delivery approved by FAA

Amazon has been given the green light to begin trialling its Prime Air drone delivery system in the US.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which has previously issued strict regulations on drone usage, officially approved Amazon’s drone tests earlier this week.

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Recent FAA proposals are still in effect, however, so operators must be in possession of a pilot’s licence and drones cannot exceed an altitude of 400 feet during daylight hours. Drones must also remain within sight of the pilot at all times.

Currently, using drones commercially is still illegal in the United States, but this is being reviewed by the FAA. New regulations are expected to be issued, as existing legislation is ill-equipped to deal with the advent of new technology.

Amazon originally asked the FAA if it could begin tests back in July 2014, but has only just received authorisation. In the intervening period the online retailer indicated that it would be willing to being testing in other countries, if necessary.

As part of the experimental airworthiness certificate granted to Amazon, the firm will be required to provide the FAA with data collected during the tests.

“The certificate also requires Amazon to provide monthly data to the FAA,” the regulator explained. “The company must report the number of flights conducted, pilot duty time per flight, unusual hardware or software malfunctions, any deviations from air traffic controllers’ instructions, and any unintended loss of communication links. The FAA includes these reporting requirements in all UAS experimental airworthiness certificates.”

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Last year, Google’s own delivery service Project Wing made the headlines after it began tests in Australia. The secretive project also uses self-flying autonomous vehicles in order to deliver packages to remote locations.

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.