Amazon Inc. and the British government have announced a partnership to test the e-commerce giant’s aerial drone parcel delivery technology.
Supervised by the U.K.’s aviation safety regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, the trial will test the drones when they are out of sight from operators, measure their ability to identify and avoid obstacles and gauge the success of operators flying multiple drones at once, Amazon said in a statement on July 26.
“We want to enable the innovation that arises from the development of drone technology by safely integrating drones into the overall aviation system,” Tim Johnson, policy director at the CAA, said in the statement. “These tests by Amazon will help inform our policy and future approach.”
Lior Yekoutieli, head of Global Technology Alliances at Deloitte Israel, said Amazon’s collaboration with the U.K. was necessary to get commercial drone technology off the ground. “The U.K. is gaining short-term advantage, but this agreement will have benefits for the worldwide drone delivery market,” Yekoutieli said. “There needed to be collaboration between a technology company and regulator to make it all happen.”
Amazon, which is trying to reduce its dependence on logistics companies such as UPS and FedEx Corp., applauded the U.K. for allowing drone delivery to move forward. “The U.K. is charting a path forward for drone technology that will benefit customers, industry and society,” said Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global innovation policy and communications.
UPS ranks No. 1 and FedEx No. 2 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.
Amazon’s partnership with the U.K. comes one month after the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration finalized the first operational rules for commercial use of drones that require pilots to keep the unmanned aircraft within line of sight.
In April, a U.K. government official criticized Amazon for not providing guidance about the safe operation of drones to customers. The company responded by saying such information was included on its website. Also that month, a British Airways pilot landing at London’s Heathrow airport reported a drone had struck the airplane, an incident that hasn’t been confirmed, although a number of near-misses in 2015 were acknowledged.