Amazon.com Inc has won approval from U.S. federal regulators to test a delivery drone outdoors, as the e-commerce company pursues its goal of sending packages to customers by air, even as it faces public concern about safety and privacy.
The Federal Aviation Administration said on Thursday it issued an experimental airworthiness certificate to an Amazon business unit and its prototype drone, allowing test flights over private, rural land in Washington state.
The FAA also granted Amazon an exemption from other flight restrictions so the experimental drone can conduct those flights.
The approval is a win for Seattle-based Amazon, the largest e-commerce company in the United States, and advances plans by the company and others to deliver packages using small, self-piloted aircraft.
There are limitations, however. The experimental certificate applies to a particular drone and Amazon must obtain a new certification if it modifies the aircraft or flies a different version, making it difficult to adapt the model quickly in the field. Amazon's petition for permission indicated it was testing several iterations of a drone at an indoor facility in Seattle.
Amazon must keep flights below 400 feet (120 meters) and keep the drone in sight, according to the FAA.