Amazon gets approval to use delivery drones in the US - could the UK follow suit?

The first Amazon drone package was delivered in the UK in 2016. (Photo: Shutterstock)The first Amazon drone package was delivered in the UK in 2016. (Photo: Shutterstock)
The first Amazon drone package was delivered in the UK in 2016. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Amazon has announced that it has received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate Prime Air drones in the US.

Prime Air is a fleet of unmanned drones which will be used to deliver goods to remote areas which are "beyond the visual line of sight of the operator".

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The Prime Air drones will begin operating on a trial basis in particular locations.

The news comes several years after the first testing of Amazon drones back in 2013, when the tech giant struggled to launch the service due to safety and hardware issues.

Since then, the firm has said that a number of training deliveries have been safely trialled using the drones.

The drones have been tested in the UK with the approval of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for some kind, including some flying beyond the visual line of sight of the drone operator.

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Are delivery drones safe?

The US trial period will see drones rolled out in low-populated areas, delivering packages weighing five pounds or less.

David Carbon, vice president of Prime Air, said in a statement: "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.

"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 realise our vision of 30 minute delivery."

The service is not yet able to scale up deliveries, but with more testing Amazon hopes to roll out the service elsewhere.

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Could Amazon drones appear in UK skies soon?

The very first Amazon drone delivery was made in 2016, with a bag of popcorn and Amazon Fire TV box dropped off to a customer in Cambridge, after the company received approval from the UK government for testing.

UK Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Jonathan Nicholson said of drone deliveries in the UK:

"The UK CAA is actively working with a number of companies to help them test and safely develop drone flying over a longer distance in the UK, from search and rescue to drone deliveries.  Key to achieving this will be developing the technology of drones to detect and avoid other aircraft and also how the drones are safely integrated into the existing airspace system".

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