Getting your boardgame or iPhone case via Amazon drone is one step closer to reality.
The FAA announced that Amazon was awarded the highest tier of certification for aerial drone operations, known as Part 135.
The certification means Amazon now has no limits on the size or scope of operations. That’s a big deal, and Amazon follows only UPS (the first recipient) and Google’s Wing as certified companies under the ridged certification that examines safety and drone operations.
“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,” said David Carbon, the VP of Amazon’s Prime Air division. “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.”
The goal of 30-minute deliveries is, obviously, aggressive. The company said it would be happening in “months” roughly a year ago, but seems to be moving fast. With the certification, the key will be drone infrastructure and logistics.
The drone Amazon unveiled in 2019 has a range of about 15 miles and can carry packages that weigh five pounds or less. So that’s a little more than seven miles one way. According to a survey by logistics firm JOC, puts the average consumer in the top 15 major metros within six to nine miles of an Amazon fulfillment center. And the vast majority of Amazon packages are below five pounds already. The potential is explosive. But the company will need to figure out those first-mile logistics of getting the package to the drone and charting the flight path. It also has to figure out the last-mile logistics, does the drone just drop your box in the yard? What if you don’t have a yard? And how does the company keep any passerby from catching that box and walking away? That’s something UPS, Google and Amazon have not finalized.
Amazon does have some crazy patents in this realm, including a drone zeppelin that acts as a mothership for the smaller drone fleet. Don’t hold your breath for that, but this certification is one step closer to some very futuristic options for package delivery.