Not long after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officially banned the use of civilian drones except for hobbyists who can keep the flying robot in sight, Amazon has filed a petition for an exemption for its own proposed drone delivery program. The petition was filed two days ago to FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta, and looks to make a compelling case as to why Amazon should be allowed to take to the skies to bring you the DVDs you ordered a half an hour ago.
The main thrust of the argument is that Amazon shares the same views towards commercial drones as the United States Congress, which in 2012 said as much in a $63 billion funding bill for the FAA. Moreover, the FAA ban from last month also gives the agency “expedited operational authorization” for “innovators.” In its petition, Amazon explains why and how it is, indeed, one of those innovators. Sure, “innovators” might typically be meant for research labs at universities or think-tanks, but Amazon is certainly no slouch in the world of innovation.
The other big push in Amazon’s petition? Employment:
“Because Amazon is a commercial enterprise we have been limited to conducting R&D flights indoors or in other countries. Of course, Amazon would prefer to keep the focus, jobs, and investment of this important research and development initiative in the United States by conducting private research and development operations outdoors near Seattle – where our next generation R&D lab and distinguished team of engineers, scientists and aeronautical professionals are located.”
It’s a smart move on Amazon’s part, since its economic power can’t be understated. If you’re looking for a company to make unmanned commercial delivery drones work, it’s Amazon. Ironically, despite the emphasis on how drone testing would keep money and jobs in the United States, allowing the drones to operate would undoubtedly put human delivery workers out of a job – though that doesn’t seem to get a mention in the petition. Whoops!
It seems likely that the FAA will bend for Amazon in this instance, though we’ll have to wait and see. I’d be surprised, however, if this ban remained in effect for the company for very much longer. Don’t be surprised to see a flying robot bring your junk right to your doorstep before the end of next year.