Amazon to Expand US Drone Service

FAA Approval Increases Range of Flights
Amazon drone
Amazon will expand the area it services with unmanned aerial vehicles in College Station, Texas. (Amazon via X)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.] Inc.’s Prime Air drone program has been cleared by U.S. regulators to fly devices beyond the visual line of sight of pilots, increasing range and giving more customers access to the service.

The approval, which means pilots won’t need to be able to see the drones with their own eyes, will allow Prime Air to scale deliveries in the US, Amazon said on its website May 30. The company will expand the area it services with unmanned aerial vehicles in College Station, Texas, and will start integrating such shipments into its same-day delivery network this year.

Amazon ranks No. 1 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest logistics companies in North America and No. 1 on the TT Top 50 Global Freight carriers list. It also ranks No. 9 on the TT Top 100 private carriers list.

Amazon is the latest company to gain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones more freely amid the proliferation of rapid delivery services. UAVs offer a potentially faster, cheaper way to deliver small parcels than paying drivers to fight through traffic and find parking. Amazon, Alphabet Inc. and Walmart Inc. have all invested in drones with mixed success.

Prime Air was slow to launch. A Bloomberg investigation in 2022 revealed that the program was beset by technical challenges, high turnover and safety concerns. A serious crash in June 2021 prompted federal regulators to question the drone’s airworthiness because multiple safety features failed and the machine careened out of control, causing a brush fire.

Amazon is seeking to deliver 500 million packages a year by drone by the end of the decade. It delivered more than 4 billion units on the same or next day to Prime members in the US in 2023.

In announcing the FAA’s clearance on May 30, Amazon said it has spent years “developing, testing and refining our onboard detect-and-avoid system to ensure our drones can detect and avoid obstacles in the air.”

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