Amazon.com Inc. plans to move more of its drone research abroad after accusing United States regulators of blocking it.
The e-commerce giant recently began testing delivery drones in Britain.
It’s the latest sign the burgeoning drone industry is shifting overseas in response to the Federal Aviation Administration’s cautious approach to regulating unmanned aircraft, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
“Without the ability to test outdoors in the United States soon, we will have no choice but to divert even more of our [drone] research and development resources abroad,” Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, said in a letter to the FAA on Sunday.
Amazon wants to use drones to deliver small packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.
But the FAA effectively bans commercial drone use, including test flights, until it completes rules for unmanned aircraft in the next several years.
Companies can apply for exceptions to the ban but the process has been slow.
The FAA said it is cautiously integrating drones into the US airspace because the devices pose a safety risk to people in the air and on the ground.
Amazon said it would prefer to keep its drone program in the US, where it has been test-flying indoors.
In July, it requested permission from the FAA to test drones in a rural area near Amazon’s Seattle headquarters.
The FAA responded in October, asking Amazon why it doesn’t pursue a so-called experimental certificate, which authorizes manufacturers to test-fly aircraft under development.
On Monday, the FAA said it is has issued roughly 200 experimental certificates to drone makers since 2005 and that such approvals are more appropriate for test-flights than the exemption Amazon is seeking.
The agency said it has been working with Amazon on an experimental certificate and is awaiting more information from the company to complete its application.
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