Amazon Left Out Of Government Drone Test Program

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Kyle Perisic Contributor
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The Department of Transportation left Amazon out of a list of companies that will be conducting a test to push for package delivery using drones.

“While it’s unfortunate the applications we were involved with were not selected, we support the administration’s efforts to create a pilot program aimed at keeping America at the forefront of aviation and drone innovation,” Vice President of Amazon Public Policy Brian Huseman said in a statement.

“At Amazon Prime Air, we’re focused on developing a safe operating model for drones in the airspace, and we will continue our work to make this a reality,” said Huseman.

The drone pilot program, called the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program, is a government and private sector collaboration aimed at accelerating unmanned aircraft testing to develop proper regulations in order to further, among other goals, drone delivery services.

The companies will develop “operational concepts” that include testing package delivery, detect-and-avoid technologies, night operations, flights over people, the reliability and security of data links between pilot and aircraft, and others.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), an operating mode at the Department of Transportation, tweeted a congratulation Wednesday to the 10 state, local, and tribal governments who will participate in the program.

“Data gathered from these pilot projects will form the basis of a new regulatory framework to safely integrate drones into our national airspace,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a press statement Wednesday.

“The enthusiastic response to our request for applications demonstrated the many innovative technological and operational solutions already on the horizon,” the secretary added.

Amazon has been a vocal proponent of drone delivery. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a 2013 “60 Minutes” interview that the company is pushing for drones to deliver products to people’s doors by 2018.

“I know it can’t be before 2015, because that’s the earliest we could get the rules from the FAA,” Bezos said at the time. “My guess is that’s, that’s probably a little optimistic. But could it be, you know, four, five years? I think so. It will work, and it will happen, and it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

Four or five years from then would’ve been 2017 or 2018.

The drone pilot program pairs private companies with governments. The companies include Google parent company Alphabet’s Project Wing, Flytrex, Matternet, Zipline, and Flirtey, Marketwatch reported.

“We’re grateful to the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration for providing us with the opportunity to conduct our most advanced testing to date on U.S. soil,” said James Ryan Burgess, co-lead of Project Wing, which will be testing in Virginia. “We look forward to working with communities in Virginia to better understand how our drone delivery could be useful in their everyday lives.”

The 10 local and tribal governments selected are located in Alaska, California, Florida, Kansas, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia.

There isn’t any drone delivery in the U.S. yet, but Alphabet has been testing delivering packages to people’s backyards in Australia.

“You can’t build a delivery service if you can’t deliver where the customer wants it,” a Google spokesperson told Marketwatch in 2017. “We want to build a system that can deliver things from wherever they’re located to wherever they’re needed. If you have a headache, you shouldn’t have to walk a kilometer, but instead you should get that Advil to your backyard.”

Flirtey also began testing pizza delivery with Domino’s Pizza in 2016.

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