Amazon has announced that it has earned a Part 135 certificate from the FAA for its drones to deliver packages to retail customers. The charter cert is not the first for a drone operation. Wing, a Google subsidiary, earned its Part 135 papers 15 months ago, and UPS has earned the same for their pilot-less operations, as well.
But Amazon, which is the largest retailer in the country, looks committed to launching the program and doing it soon. In making the announcement, however, Amazon stopped short of saying just when deliveries would commence.
The company’s David Carbon, who’s VP of Prime Air, the company’s air delivery arm, said that the Part 135 approval was an expression of the “FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s drone delivery service that will one day deliver around the world.” The service is part of Amazon head Jeff Bezos’ vision of cutting delivery time to just 30 minutes from order to doorstep. To make that happen, drones will be a big part of the picture.
What exactly this means for the airspace remains to be seen. The FAA, under Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, is still developing concepts to guide its regulation of pilot-less operations, which isn’t unprecedented; cars and trucks were developed before paved roads were.
Amazon is already in tests of the system. Here’s some footage from Amazon of one of its drones in action. It’s pretty impressive. Just when it starts to expand into new cities and new airspace is not known, but the charter approval is a necessary step in that direction.