Amazon seeks US permission for drone tests

Jul 11, 2014
A handout photo released by Amazon on December 1, 2013 shows a flying "octocopter" mini-drone that would be used to fly small packages to consumers

Online giant Amazon has sought permission for drone test flights in the United States, saying it is moving forward on plans for deliveries using the unmanned aircraft.

In a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration made public this week, Amazon said that because of restrictions on drones in US airspace, it has been conducting test flights indoors and in other countries.

"Of course, Amazon would prefer to keep the focus, jobs, and investment of this important research and development initiative in the United States by conducting private research and development operations outdoors near Seattle," the letter said.

Amazon said an exemption to FAA rules would be "in the public interest" and "is a necessary step towards realizing the consumer benefits of Amazon Prime Air," which company founder Jeff Bezos has described as a plan for drone delivery to consumers.

Bezos unveiled his idea for drone deliveries last December, and said the company would be ready to launch Amazon Prime Air as early as 2015 if FAA regulations allowed.

The letter said that over the past five months, "we have made advancements toward the development of highly‐automated aerial vehicles for Prime Air," which travel at over 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour and can carry loads up to five pounds (2.2 kilos).

The letter to the FAA said the granting the request "will do nothing more than allow Amazon to do what thousands of hobbyists and manufacturers of model aircraft do every day, and we will abide by much stronger safety measures than currently required for these groups."

Amazon's plan is to allow for deliveries of some goods within 30 minutes of an order.

Amazon said it would conduct the tests on its own property in the northwest state of Washington, and on FAA-approved test sites.

It added that "one day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today, resulting in enormous benefits for consumers across the nation."

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User comments : 18

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Newbeak
not rated yet Jul 11, 2014
Maybe equipping drones with ballistic recovery chutes would help lessen the chances of one coming crashing down on someone's head if it had a malfunction. It would certainly be a more ecologically sound way to deliver goods than driving a multi-ton truck for hours every day.
zaxxon451
1 / 5 (1) Jul 12, 2014
"Of course, Amazon would prefer to keep the focus, jobs, and investment of this important research and development initiative in the United States by conducting private research and development operations outdoors near Seattle,"

Predictable passive aggressive threats by a monopolistic corporation. Laws and regulations mean little to those with such power and wealth.
betterexists
1 / 5 (1) Jul 12, 2014
Via Media approach is preferable i.e DRONE TOWERS throughout the City!
Once Drones land there ....on the NEAREST tower & deliver their goods...The goods should slide down into the trucks which will transport them to the customer residences!
DIRECT FLYING OF DRONES To THE RESIDENCES should be Avoided for Several Years until the whole system is Perfected!
When They do Crash, They must automatically have floating devices open up to keep them floating in the air!
Newbeak
not rated yet Jul 12, 2014
Via Media approach is preferable i.e DRONE TOWERS throughout the City!
Once Drones land there ....on the NEAREST tower & deliver their goods...The goods should slide down into the trucks which will transport them to the customer residences!
DIRECT FLYING OF DRONES To THE RESIDENCES should be Avoided for Several Years until the whole system is Perfected!
When They do Crash, They must automatically have floating devices open up to keep them floating in the air!

Except for parcels > 5lbs,the whole idea of drone delivery is to cut trucks out of the equation. A floating device would be totally impractical.I assume you are referring to a helium/hydrogen filled balloon? My idea of a ballistic recovery chute could be incorporated into the drone body,and would lower drone and package to the ground at a safe speed above a minimum altitude..Such systems already exist for light aircraft: http://en.wikiped..._Systems
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jul 12, 2014
Buildings in cities could be designed with more rooftop access and perhaps balconies specifically for receiving and sending materials.

It might even be practical with structures of sufficient size for balloon drones to remove trash from upper levels.
Newbeak
not rated yet Jul 12, 2014
Buildings in cities could be designed with more rooftop access and perhaps balconies specifically for receiving and sending materials.

Yes,but I think this concept is being developed mainly for deliveries to sprawling suburban developments,which would do the most to alleviate ground vehicle pollution-most homes have at least a small front lawn which could double as a landing site.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jul 12, 2014
Yes,but I think this concept is being developed mainly for deliveries to sprawling suburban developments,which would do the most to alleviate ground vehicle pollution-most homes have at least a small front lawn which could double as a landing site
Source? Cities have more congestion problems and higher densities of commercial customers. AI could fly drones at much higher concentrations than human operators. And there is less chance for interference and pilferage by goobers with scoped rifles and pickup trucks.

But megastructures or towns-within-buildings will be built in the countryside.
bigmuddie2001
not rated yet Jul 12, 2014
The only thing that I see is a target. All you need to do is look at what happened two weeks ago during the world cup viewing party. A drone was pulled out of the air and destroyed.
Aside from the fun of target shooting a drone, the effects of weather are not being discussed. Even a light wind when channeled through the wind tunnel effect that most city building cause will make drones useless.
Newbeak
not rated yet Jul 12, 2014
Yes,but I think this concept is being developed mainly for deliveries to sprawling suburban developments,which would do the most to alleviate ground vehicle pollution-most homes have at least a small front lawn which could double as a landing site
Source? Cities have more congestion problems and higher densities of commercial customers. AI could fly drones at much higher concentrations than human operators. And there is less chance for interference and pilferage by goobers with scoped rifles and pickup trucks.

But megastructures or towns-within-buildings will be built in the countryside.

My observations aren't from any particular source,but to me it is common sense.Built up areas can be adequately served by trucks(preferably electric),as the distance between customers is much less than it would be for deliveries in low population density areas which are common in North America.
stripeless_zebra
5 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2014
I've been designing and flying FPV planes and drones for quite a few years and can definitely state here, these vehicles do fail and create a serious risk of injury.

Octocopters are indeed the safest of all multicopters and can safely continue flying with one motor dead and they have a fail safe mode programmed with a few different scenarios. But that's not all. Failure of avionics almost certainly makes these things unpredictable.

In the last 3 years I've had a few crashes - failed gyro, battery fire, RTH mode activation getting it into trees. Other risks include a possibility of hijacking and taking over control or shooting it down just for fun. With the large number of the drones and frequency of flying Amazon will certainly have some major accidents, but that's going to be a problem for the subcontractor operating these vehicles not the company.

In the meantime Bezos will get even richer getting business out of expensive couriers like UPS.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2014
My observations aren't from any particular source,but to me it is common sense.Built up areas can be adequately served by trucks(preferably electric)
But they're not. City congestion is critical and drones could alleviate some of this. They could replace maniac couriers on bikes for instance.
the distance between customers is much less than it would be for deliveries in low population density areas which are common in North America
Correct and drones have a limited range making them suitable for urban areas where high numbers of customers would make them more profitable.

Most of these seem to be urban
http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5461689

-except the two-fours for the ice fishermen.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2014
I've been designing and flying FPV planes and drones for quite a few years and can definitely state here, these vehicles do fail and create a serious risk of injury
-And so how hard would it be to provide ballistic chutes like they have on ultralights? Copters and planes regularly fly through urban airspace and the danger is minimized by picking safe routes. It will be much easier to drop a drone to a safe landing spot than a full sized vehicle.

Copters are already used for this.

"DHL has been using helicopters for deliveries in New York for the past several years, hopping over traffic to carry legal documents to Wall Street and design drawings, fabric samples and clothing prototypes to Midtown.

"In March, DHL began using helicopters to carry documents to attorneys and bankers in downtown Los Angeles, cutting a 90-minute trip to nine minutes, and delivering by 8 a.m."

-Drones will be cheaper, safer, and more convenient.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2014
Well. Here you go.

"Germany's express delivery and mail company Deutsche Post DHL is testing a drone that could be used to deliver urgently needed goods to hard-to-reach places.

"The small pilotless helicopter flew a package of medicine Monday from a pharmacy in the town of Bonn to the company's headquarters on the other side of the Rhine River. The aircraft can carry up to 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds)."

-I see there are already ballistic chutes (and airbags?) for RC craft.
https://dronedamagemin.com
Newbeak
not rated yet Jul 13, 2014
Correct and drones have a limited range making them suitable for urban areas where high numbers of customers would make them more profitable.


You have to remember drones don't have to follow roads,and the deliveries would be straight to the customer and back.Even if one delivery strained the battery capacity of the drone,another could be assigned to deliver to the next customer,or the battery on the first drone could be swapped out.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2014
You have to remember drones don't have to follow roads,and the deliveries would be straight to the customer and back.
Right. To rooftops and balconies 40 floors up rather than trying to maneuver a delivery truck through traffic and then moving goods through a bldg and up a freight elevator.

Rural delivery will probably come first because it's safer. But volume and congestion dictates that drones will be used more in cities as the refs I provided above indicate.

There are already many instances where helicopters are used for deliveries in cities rather than trucks despite the cost. What do helicopters deliver in the countryside besides emergency relief and accident victims and CEOs?

You should really make a little effort to provide refs of your own or we could assume you prefer making things up.
stripeless_zebra
not rated yet Jul 13, 2014
And so how hard would it be to provide ballistic chutes like they have on ultralights?


Actually it's a very simple system. We've successfully tested them on UAV's weighting up to 20lbs. The problem is such device adds about 3lbs of weight for the drone of this size and in case of Amazon drones basically replaces the usable load, ha, ha, ha! It is a massive extra ballast that can safely get the vehicle down in an open field.

But imagine getting in on your windshield when driving 80mph on a highway. Not only you but possibly a bunch of innocent fellows may lose their lives.

To be clear, I'm not an FAA agent, I do enjoy flying drones for hobby and research but I use my brain as the main drone controller and I'm not driven by greed.
Newbeak
not rated yet Jul 14, 2014

You should really make a little effort to provide refs of your own or we could assume you prefer making things up.

I did make an effort,but couldn't find anything on the urban vs rural delivery matter.I still think drones would be better than vans for suburban deliveries-if you can find something authoritative that contradicts me,I will gladly accept it.Surely you realize it costs pennies to charge a drone battery,vs the cost of a delivery van's tank of diesel!
Drones would be used for delivery in cities,but finding a spot to drop off packages would mean giving roof access to apartment block residents-not sure how common that is. Besides,the top of tall buildings is often windy,making drone drop-offs tricky. My A.R.Drone doesn't like gusty conditions.
The cost of operating a helicopter is about $450 an hour,so I am not holding my breath waiting for Amazon to deliver my purchase that way. Source:
https://ca.answer...2AACf9YR
Newbeak
not rated yet Jul 14, 2014
The problem is such device adds about 3lbs of weight for the drone of this size

Just curious.How come it weighs that much?