Due to Rigid FAA Regulations, Amazon Testing Drones in Canada

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(Newswire.net — March 31, 2015)  — The Canadian government issued permission to the E-commerce giant Amazon, to test its delivery system by drones. In a secret location somewhere in British Columbia, Amazon now tests its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), the Guardian reported.

In an exclusive look at the testing facility, Guardian reported that UAVs are capable to take off and land vertically, and fly following a precise GPS charted route. The facility is populated by a “formidable team of roboticists, software engineers, aeronautics experts and pioneers in remote sensing – including a former NASA astronaut and the designer of the wingtip of the Boeing 787,” the Guardian added.

According to the report, Amazon tests a new improved version of UAVs that have “Sensors that can detect and avoid obstacles in a drone’s path; link-loss procedures that control the aircraft should its connection with base be broken; stability in wind and turbulence; and environmental impact.”

“We are going to end up with unique shapes, unique vehicles. The most important part is to develop strong confidence that our system is safe and that we can demonstrate that to customers,” said Gur Kimchi, the architect and leader of the Prime Air project.

The flying zone of the delivery drones is above 200ft, where most of the skyscrapers end, but below 500ft which is lowest altitude for the general aviation. So, there is a usable zone that is secure for flying.

Why couldn’t the company test their technology in the US?

Apparently, the problem is a slow FAA approval, which Amazon heavily criticized. The thing is that by the time the FAA finally signs the approval for in-flight testing of these particular drones, the Amazon engineers will have already improved the UAV to another version that won’t be approved to fly.

“We don’t test it anymore. We’ve moved on to more advanced designs that we already are testing abroad,” Paul Misener, Amazon.com’s vice president for global public policy, said in testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security.

“Nowhere outside of the United States have we been required to wait more than one or two months to begin testing,” Misener added.

Existing FAA regulations allow small drones flight for recreational use at least 5 miles away from any airport and at an altitude no more than 400 feet. In addition, the FAA banned night flight and it is mandatory that drone operator have the vehicle in sight all the time.

It is possible to obtain a special approval for automated flight; however, the process is slow and rigid, and the progress waits for no one.