Amazon eyes UK as drone delivery testbed

prime-air_04US-based retail giant Amazon is to partner with the British aviation authority to trial a new delivery system that uses drones.

The British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will allow Amazon to explore three different areas of its Prime Air drone delivery system:

  • Beyond line of sight operations in rural and suburban areas
  • Testing sensor performance to make sure the drones can identify and avoid obstacles
  • Flights where one person operates multiple highly-automated drones

The UK is a leader in enabling drone innovation – we’ve been investing in Prime Air research and development here for quite some time,” said Paul Misener, Amazon’s VP of global innovation policy and communications. “This announcement strengthens our partnership with the UK and brings Amazon closer to our goal of using drones to safely deliver parcels in 30 minutes to customer sin the UK elsewhere around the world.”

The drones will be tested at a limited altitude of 400-feet, and will also feature a weight limit. Prime Air fliers will carry packages weighing up to five pounds (2.3kg) to customers within 30 minutes or less. According to Amazon, packages weighing less than five pounds make up 90 per cent of the company’s sales.

“Using small drones for the delivery of parcels will improve customer experience, create new jobs in a rapidly growing industry, and pioneer new sustainable delivery methods to meet future demand. The UK is charting a path forward for drone technology that will benefit consumers, industry, and society,” said Misener.

A UK CAA spokesman tells Air Traffic Management: “We’ve given them an exemption from some of the overall drone regulations to be able to do this – but in a very controlled way at specific limited locations.”

Tim Johnson, UK CAA policy director, confirmed: “We want to enable the innovation that rises from the development of drone technology by safely integrating drones into the overall aviation system. These tests by Amazon will help inform our policy and future approach.”

Amazon and the UK CAA are refusing to say where the drones are being tested and neither are saying how many drones will be tested, how often, and when the tests will commence. However it has been reported that the tests are happening near Worsted Lodge, close to Sawston, in Cambridgeshire, but this is unconfirmed.

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