June 23, 2024

Amazon has crossed a major milestone with its delivery drone service, receiving FAA approval to “fly farther and deliver to more customers.”

The e-commerce giant has been gradually rolling out its drone delivery service to speed up deliveries and improve the last-mile delivery experience. Until now, the FAA has required that commercial drone operators maintain line of sight on the drones they are flying.

Amazon has been granted permission to fly its drones beyond visual range, using Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) technology. BVLOS allows drone operators to use instrumentation to fly beyond line of sight.

To obtain this permission, we developed a BVLOS strategy, including an onboard detect-and-avoid technology. We’ve spent years developing, testing, and refining our onboard detect-and-avoid system to ensure our drones can detect and avoid obstacles in the air.

We submitted crucial engineering information to the FAA, including our onboard detect-and-avoid capabilities. This included how our system was designed, how it is operated, how it is maintained, and ultimately how we validated that the system performs to specified requirements. We then conducted flight demonstrations in the presence of FAA inspectors to show our system works in real-world scenarios—we flew in the presence of real planes, helicopters, and a hot air balloon to demonstrate how the drone safely navigated away from each of them. We also provided extensive analysis and test data for our technology that further validated the safety of our system. After reviewing this information and observing the technology in action at our test site, the FAA provided Amazon Prime Air with BVLOS approval.

Amazon will expand its delivery area in College Station, Texas. The company’s goal is to use drones to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less.