Amazon's Drone Delivery Permit Is Already Obsolete

The drone it got permission to fly no longer exists because the FAA took too long.

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Mar 24 2015, 7:10pm

​Last week, Amazon finally got permission to start testing its delivery drones outside. Thing is, the drone that got approval is already outdated and is no longer flown by the company, because the Federal Aviation Administration took so long to approve it.

As we mentioned, the license that the FAA granted Amazon only allows it to test one specific design of drone; once it's been upgraded or otherwise changed, a new waiver is required. Amazon's request took, according to the company, more than a year and a half, and the latest drone it's been testing for its Prime Air service isn't covered.

"The good news is that, while the FAA was considering our applications for testing, we innovated so rapidly that the [drone] approved last week by the FAA has become obsolete. We don't test it anymore," Paul Misener, Amazon's vice president for global public policy, testified before the Senate Commerce Committee today.

"We are very grateful to the FAA for granting us permission to conduct UAS testing outdoors in the United States … [however] obtaining permission took far too long, and certainly much longer—over half a year—than it took in other countries," he added.

The "experimental" license that the FAA gave Amazon also comes with restrictions that make it somewhat useless for testing delivery drones. Amazon's drones have to stay within line of sight, meaning they can't be used to fly long distances.

"The permission the FAA granted is more restrictive than are the rules and approvals by which we conduct outdoor testing in the UK and elsewhere," Misener said. "It's even more limited than the rules applicable to non-commercial, amateur UAS fliers in the United States."

Misener said that the Amazon applied for another waiver on Friday for its latest drone design. The company hopes the FAA won't take another year and a half to approve testing.

The Senate hearing is still ongoing, we'll have an update if any more news comes out of it.