A few months back online retail giant Amazon showed off a novel concept called Amazon Prime Air. The idea is to utilize drones to deliver packages to customers. Using localized fulfillment centers would enable the online retailer to reduce shipping times to as much as just 30 minutes. The concept was called by Bill Gates as as too over optimistic and Amazon itself is aware of the regulatory and legal hurdles it has to clear if anything like this can be set in motion. The Federal Aviation Administration isn’t having any of this right now, it has banned package delivery through drones for the foreseeable future.
The FAA isn’t a fan of drones being used for commercial purposes. In a document it lists “delivering packages to people for a fee” as neither a hobby nor a recreation. This statutory requirement makes it illegal for drones to be used for package deliveries in the U.S.
It is appealing a ruling which set back its ambition of getting commercial drone usage banned in the country. The FAA points out that even if someone offers free shipping “in association with a purchase or other offer,” it would be construed as a business purpose and would not fall under the hobby or recreation statutory requirement. This pretty much singles out Amazon’s offer of free delivery under the Prime program.
Amazon has to overcome a lot of technological hurdles before its delivery drone fleet can be ready for primetime. The company itself has said that it will take a number of years to put these drones in the air because considerable wait will be required for FAA rules and regulations to evolve. Until then, you’re going to have to bear the delivery truck.