Jeff Bezos’ Amazon quest to start drone deliveries in the United States is finally getting close to reality. On Saturday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a certificate to that effect.
The company has been working on a faster way to make deliveries for long, and thus chose drones, as it would offer the fastest delivery time. With the part 135 air carrier certificate, Amazon’s drone delivery dream is now within reach as it is a requirement for a company to start drone deliveries.
Amazon unveiled the idea in 2013 as a solution to delayed deliveries induced by traffic and road trip troubles. The drones would be called Prime Air, and would be unmanned. But in 2015, the FAA ruled that the type of drones that Bezos was proposing were “currently” not allowed.
Bezos said then that the drone models have a range of 10 miles and have the capability of delivering orders below five pounds. While the idea appeared brilliant because 90% of Amazon’s products fall under five pounds, it posed some challenges that require testing to convince the FAA.
Today, Amazon said it has many testing centers in the US and around the world, and has logged thousands of flight hours. And it has validated over 500 safety and efficiency processes as part of its application for the certificate.
Amazon hired David Carbon, a former Boeing executive in March, to lead the drone program. He said the company is working with aviation authorities to make the drone delivery a reality.
“We will continue to develop and refine our technology to fully integrate delivery drones into the airspace, and work closely with the FAA and other regulators around the world to realize our vision 30 minute delivery,” he said.
Bezos said in 2013 that the aim is to make deliveries as short as 30 minutes in five years. However, regulations and safety concerns stalled the approval by FAA until COVID-19 showed up and created social distancing. The need to maintain social distancing increased the need of using robots in the place of humans for some services, including delivery.
Though the idea of using drones for delivery is new, the certificate has been issued to other companies besides Amazon. CNN reported that UPS and Wing, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, both received their own in 2019. And since then, UPS has made medical deliveries at two North Carolina hospitals, and has continued to deliver medical supplies to some parts of Florida.
However, while the introduction of drone delivery will serve the purpose of swift delivery, many people will be paying for it with their jobs. With every successful robotic machine, comes someone whose job has been taken.