Amazon to expand drone deliveries following FAA BVLOS approval

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given Amazon additional permissions that allow it to operate its Prime Air delivery drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).

To obtain this permission, Amazon developed a BVLOS strategy, including an onboard detect-and-avoid system that it has been developing and refining for some time. The company submitted engineering information to the FAA, which included how the system was designed, how it is operated and maintained, and how Amazon validated that the system performs to specified requirements. Flight demonstrations were then conducted in the presence of FAA inspectors, with drones operating near real planes, helicopters and a hot air balloon to demonstrate how the remotely piloted aircraft could safely navigate away from each of them. Amazon also provided analysis and test data for its technology to further validate the safety of the system. After reviewing this information and observing the technology in action at Amazon’s test site, the FAA provided Amazon Prime Air with BVLOS approval.

The approvals allow Amazon to expand its delivery area in College Station, Texas. Later this year, drone deliveries will begin integrating into Amazon’s delivery network, meaning drones will deploy from facilities next to the company’s same-day delivery sites.

In a May 30 statement announcing the approval, Amazon said it would immediately scale its operations in College Station with the current MK-27 drone to reach customers in more densely populated areas. Ultimately, the company aims to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using highly autonomous drones. It has a goal of delivering 500 million packages, per year, by drone, by the end of this decade.

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