Amazon.com Inc. has won approval to test a delivery drone outdoors, moving it a step closer to speeding packages to customers through the air.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an experimental airworthiness certificate to an Amazon unit and its prototype drone design, allowing it to conduct test flights over private, rural land in Washington state.
Also, FAA gave Amazon an exemption from general flight restrictions on drones, or small unmanned aircraft, similar to those granted to more than two dozen companies in the past year.
However, the company continues to face public criticism over safety and privacy.
For now, FAA certificate applies to a particular drone design and Amazon must obtain a new certification if it modifies the drone, making it difficult to adapt the model quickly in the field.
Amazon must keep flights below 120 meters and keep the drone in sight, according to the FAA.
The company had asked for permission to fly at altitudes up to 150 meters.
The drone operators must have a private pilots’ license and current medical certification. Amazon must supply monthly data to the regulators.
Chief executive Jeff Bezos plans to deliver packages through a program dubbed “Prime Air” that will see drones fly at speeds of 80 kilometyers per hour, operate autonomously and sense and avoid objects.
Amazon also is among those working with NASA on an air-traffic management system for drones.
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