Amazon’s FAA Drone Authorization: Take II

Posted by Betsy Lillian on April 14, 2015 No Comments
Categories : Business Operations

A few weeks after receiving its experimental airworthiness certificate, Amazon has been given the OK – a Section 333 exemption – to move forward with its unmanned aerial system testing for package deliveries, Amazon Prime Air.

The UAS, to be used for outdoor ‘aerial data collection,’ is ‘an Amazon-manufactured multi-rotor small UAS that has been described to the FAA in a confidential filing,’ the exemption grant states.

At a March Senate hearing, Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, admitted that the company’s experimental airworthiness certificate had become “obsolete,” as Amazon, while waiting to be approved by the FAA, had developed new aircraft from the one that received the certificate, which also required that the pilot flying the aircraft must have at least a private pilot’s certificate and current medical certification.

Now, as part of the FAA’s revised requirements for Section 333 exemptions, the pilot must have either an “airline transport, commercial, private, recreational or sport pilot certificate,” as well as a “current FAA airmen medical certificate or a valid U.S. driver’s license.”

Also, the FAA maintains that Amazon must issue a Notice to Airmen to conduct any operations, which must stay within the visual line of sight of the pilot and visual observer, under 400 feet in altitude, and only during the daylight hours. The visual observer is required for flights.

As part of the FAA’s new “summary grants” process, the agency compared Amazon’s operations to those of Astraeus Aerial, Clayco Inc., VDOS Global LLC and Aeryon Labs Inc. – all of which have received Section 333 exemptions.

In July of last year, Amazon petitioned the FAA for a Section 333 exemption to test Prime Air outside.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), one of the entities that backed Amazon’s petition for exemption, had commented, along with an individual, that “there is a compelling need for the FAA to allow Amazon to test their systems to ensure the next evolution in package delivery happens in the United States first,” according to the exemption.

Other supporters included the Small UAV Coalition – of which Amazon Prime Air is a member – and the Unmanned Safety Institute. The Air Line Pilots Association International, the National Agricultural Aviation Association and three other individuals commented in opposition to Amazon’s petition.

The exemption is valid for two years – until April 20, 2017.

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