Amazon.com (AMZN), which wants to start a new delivery service called ‘Prime Air’ that offers 30-minute deliveries via drone-like octocopters, has asked the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] for permission to start testing its flying machines outside the FAA-designated sites.
“We are rapidly experimenting and iterating on Prime Air inside our next generation research and development lab in Seattle,” the e-commerce giant said in a letter posted on the FAA’s website on Thursday.
Chief Executive Jeff Bezos is seeking permission from the regulator to test his sky robots in outdoor areas near Seattle, where one of the co.’s R&D labs is working on the technology.
“I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not,” Bezos said in a “60 Minutes” special on CBS last December. “[The drone] drops the package. You come and get your package and we can do half-hour deliveries…It won’t work for everything,” Bezos noted. “We’re not going to deliver kayaks, or table saws this way.”
Currently Amazon can test the gadgets indoors and in other countries. But it cannot conduct R&D flight tests in open outdoor space in the state of Washington, where Amazon is headquartered.
“Of course, Amazon would prefer to keep the focus, jobs and investment of this important research and development initiative in the United States,” the company said in the letter.
The letter also outlines Amazon’s progress in drone development so far. It says its team of “world-renowned roboticists, scientists, aeronautical engineers, remote sensing experts, and a former NASA astronaut” are working on eighth- and ninth-generation versions of delivery drones capable of reaching speeds of more than 50 miles an hour. The gadgets can deliver packages weighing less than 5 pounds, which is nearly 90% of the company’s offerings, within a 10-mile radius of an Amazon fulfillment center. Amazon’s request will go open to the public if it’s processed by the FAA.
“One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today, resulting in enormous benefits for consumers across the nation,” Amazon said in the July 9 letter.