Geo Week News

March 20, 2015

Is Amazon One Step Closer to Delivering Toilet Paper by Drone?

amazon drone

The flying bbq Amazon UAV.

This week, the FAA issued an experimental airworthiness certificate to Amazon. For more on exactly what that airworthiness certificate means, Wikipedia has a pretty good article, but the gist is this: It allows Amazon to use a UAS of their own design for research purposes and crew training. In all likelihood, Amazon is developing a new unmanned aerial systems for their automated UAV delivery service, called Prime Air. Chances are that they are working out the kinks and doing some much-needed field testing. However, we can’t be sure because one of the only things we really know is that Amazon got the certificate.

On the other hand, there is every indication that the FAA is keeping Amazon’s wings clipped, forcing them to comply with all the same terms as everyone else. According to the FAA, “all flight operations must be conducted at 400 feet or below during daylight hours in visual meteorological conditions. The UAS must always remain within visual line-of-sight of the pilot and observer. The pilot actually flying the aircraft must have at least a private pilot’s certificate and current medical certification.”

In other words, the big news is that something is happening– though we still don’t know just what. 

Update: Amazon has indicated that during the 6 months that the FAA took to approve their experimental airworthiness certificate, the company moved onto other designs. In other words, the UAV that was approved by the FAA is now totally obsolete. “We don’t test it anymore,” said Paul Misener, Amazon’s VP for global public policy. “Nowhere outside of the United States have we been required to wait more than one or two months to begin testing.”


Commercial UAV Expo, a new trade show and conference organized by SPAR 3D, will take place October 5-7, 2015 in Las Vegas. It focuses on the commercial UAV/UAS market in North America covering including Surveying & Mapping; Civil Engineering & Infrastructure;  Mining; Construction; Process, Power & Utilities; Precision Agriculture; and Law Enforcement, Security, Emergency Response.

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