Amazon received federal approval to operate its fleet of Prime Air delivery drones, the Federal Aviation Administration said Monday, a milestone that allows the company to expand unmanned package delivery.
The approval will give Amazon broad privileges to “safely and efficiently deliver packages to customers,” the agency said. The certification comes under Part 135 of FAA regulations, which gives Amazon the ability to carry property on small drones “beyond the visual line of sight” of the operator.
Amazon said it will use the FAA’s certification to begin testing customer deliveries. The company said it went through rigorous training and submitted detailed evidence that its drone delivery operations are safe, including demonstrating the technology for FAA inspectors.
“This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world,” David Carbon, vice president of Prime Air, said in a statement. “We will continue to develop and refine our technology to fully integrate delivery drones into the airspace, and work closely with the FAA and other regulators around the world to realize our vision of 30 minute delivery.”
Amazon added that while the Prime Air fleet isn’t ready to immediately deploy package deliveries at scale, it’s actively flying and testing the technology.
The company has zeroed in on drone delivery as part of a push to get packages quicker to Prime members. Since last year, Amazon has also invested billions of dollars to transition from two to one-day delivery.
Amazon began testing delivery drones in 2013, aiming to drop off packages at customers’ doorsteps in 30 minutes or less. In August 2019, the company submitted a petition for FAA approval of those plans. In its petition, Amazon said deliveries would occur in areas with low population density and packages would weigh 5 pounds or less.
The company debuted a new, electric delivery drone at its 2019 re:MARS conference that’s capable of carrying packages under 5 pounds to customers within a half-hour and can fly up to 15 miles. Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s CEO of worldwide consumer, said at the time that the drone could be used by the company “within months” to deliver packages.
Amazon isn’t the only company seeking to expand commercial drone delivery. Last April, Alphabet-owned Wing became the first drone delivery company to receive FAA approval for commercial deliveries in the U.S. Last October, UPS won approval from the FAA to operate a fleet of drones as an airline.