By Philip Butterworth-Hayes
All of a sudden, Amazon Prime Air drones are back in business.
Amazon Prime Air has written to the US Federal Communications Commission to ask the Commission to amend section 15.255 to authorize drone operations with unlicensed field disturbance sensor (FDS) devices in the 60-64 GHz band.
“Authorizing drones equipped with unlicensed 60 GHz FDS devices is in the public interest because it will enable Amazon and other innovative companies to develop a Near Surround Detection (NSD) system that enhances drones’ ability to reliably avoid collisions with objects in a backyard setting, furthering important scientific and engineering research that will provide the foundation for future public interest goals,” according to a letter to the FCC by Jaime Hjort, Senior Manager, Public Policy at Amazon Prime Air. “The Commission recognized the substantial public interest benefits of 60 GHz radar in the Leica Waiver Order, stating that 60 GHz radar use cases for obstacle avoidance and situational awareness “provide substantial public benefit in improving safety and enhancing opportunities for scientific, commercial, and engineering applications” which “are not otherwise practicable.”
The letter was written just a few days before the company announced that Amazon customers living in Lockeford, California, will soon become among the first to receive Prime Air deliveries.
According to a company statement: “Lockeford residents will play an important role in defining the future. Their feedback about Prime Air, with drones delivering packages in their backyards, will help us create a service that will safely scale to meet the needs of customers everywhere—while adding another innovation milestone to the town’s aviation history….
“We are working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and local officials in Lockeford to obtain permission to conduct these deliveries and will continue with that collaboration into the future.
“We’re building something different. We’ve created a sophisticated and industry-leading sense-and-avoid system that will enable operations without visual observers and allow our drone to operate at greater distances while safely and reliably avoiding other aircraft, people, pets, and obstacles.
“We designed our sense-and-avoid system for two main scenarios: to be safe when in transit, and to be safe when approaching the ground. When flying to the delivery location, the drones need to be able to identify static and moving obstacles. Our algorithms use a diverse suite of technologies for object detection. Using this system, our drone can identify a static object in its path, like a chimney. It can also detect moving objects on the horizon, like other aircraft, even when it’s hard for people to see them. If obstacles are identified, our drone will automatically change course to safely avoid them. As our drone descends to deliver the package into a customer’s backyard, the drone ensures that there’s a small area around the delivery location that’s clear of any people, animals, or other obstacles.”
For more information