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Friday, 11 July 2014 11:01

Amazon wants to send drones to Seattle

Written by Nick Farrell

Microsoft builds bunker

Amazon has not given up on its plans to bring in delivery drones. The book seller is seeking permission from U.S. regulators to test its drones near Seattle. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos wants to use drones to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less as part of the program dubbed "Prime Air." The company is developing drones that can fly at speeds of 50 miles per hour.

It wants to test drones in outdoor areas near Seattle, where one of its research and development labs is working on the technology. It is allowed to test drones indoors and in other countries. But it cannot conduct R&D flight tests in open outdoor space in the state of Washington, where Amazon has its headquarters. In 2012, Congress required the FAA to establish a road map for the broader use of drones. The FAA has allowed limited use of drones in the US for surveillance, law enforcement, atmospheric research and other applications.

Last year, the U.S. government created six sites for companies, universities and others to test drones for broader commercial use in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas, and Virginia. The area near Seattle, where Amazon wants to conduct its tests, is not among those sites. 

Amazon’s "Prime Air" drone program has been derided by some as a mere publicity stunt, while others raised privacy concerns and said the technology needed more refinement. The book seller has grown its drones team in the last five months. It has hired roboticists, aeronautical engineers and a former NASA astronaut, and recently advertised for a full-time communications manager for the program.

Amazon insists that delivery by drone will eventually be just as common as delivery by the mail person one day.

Nick Farrell

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