Amazon.com Inc has won US federal regulators` approval to test a delivery drone, as the e-commerce giant pursues a vision of speeding packages to customers through the air amid public concern over the safety and privacy implications.
The Federal Aviation Administration said on Thursday it had issued an experimental airworthiness certificate to an Amazon unit and its prototype drone design, allowing it to conduct outdoor test flights on private, rural land in Washington state.
The experimental certificate applies to a particular drone design and Amazon must obtain a new certification for test flights if it modifies the drone.
In return, the company must supply monthly data to the regulators, and conduct flights at 400 feet (120 metres) or below and in "visual meteorological conditions," according to the FAA`s certificate. (http://1.usa.gov/1C1w3DL)
The drone operators must also have a private pilots` licence and current medical certification.
Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos wants to use drones - small unmanned aircraft - to deliver packages as part of a programme dubbed "Prime Air." The company is developing drones that can fly at speeds of 50 miles per hour (80 kph), operate autonomously and sense and avoid objects.
Amazon sought permission from the FAA to test drones in outdoor areas near Seattle, where one of its research and development labs is working on the technology. The company has conducted test flights outside the United States, in countries with looser restrictions.
In February, the FAA proposed long-awaited rules to try to set universal guidelines for drones, addressing growing interest from both individual and corporations in using unmanned aerial vehicles. The draft rules, nearly 10 years in the making, still must undergo public comment and revision before becoming final, a process expected to take at least a year.
Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.