Amazon's drone team must have heaved a collective sigh of relief: the company only had to wait a few weeks for the FAA's approval this time. The agency has officially granted Amazon's request to test its new UAVs in the US on Wednesday, April 8th. If you recall, the company's previous request spent six months in limbo, forcing it to take all testing overseas. By the time the agency allowed the drone noted in the first application to be flown within the US, the machine was already obsolete, and Amazon was already using a new model.
These new UAVs are not allowed to fly higher than 400 feet, though, or to exceed 100 miles per hour in speed. You can read these conditions, among other details, in the FAA's letter to Paul Misener, the exec who posted the request on behalf of Amazon and who told Engadget via email:
We're pleased the FAA has granted our petition for this stage of R&D experimentation, and we look forward to working with the agency for permission to deliver Prime Air service to customers in the United States safely and soon.
In addition to Amazon, dozens of other companies' requests were approved at the same time, and faster than before, as well. That's thanks to the FAA's new approach in granting permissions to fly low-risk UAVs. More often than not, these are drones used by film/TV companies and by those conducting tests to gather data for future purposes, like the e-commerce website. The agency still reviews each application under the new method, but it can quickly issue an approval if "it has already granted a previous exemption similar to the new request."