Following the FAA's recent relaxation of commercial drone flight regulations, Amazon is forging ahead with plans to employ the machines for deliveries. But first, the company has proposed some ground rules to keep the fledgling industry flying safely and out of the way of manned aircraft. Currently the FAA only allows drones to climb to 400 feet and they must remain within the pilot's line of sight. They also cannot be operated within five miles of an airport. Amazon's proposal builds off these initial restrictions with faster, long-range drones flying between 200 and 400 feet up. Slower and short-range drones would operate below 200 feet.
The biggest challenge is making sure that these machines don't run into obstacles, airplanes, helicopters or each other. As such Amazon wants every drone to file the UAV equivalent of a flight plan prior to takeoff, according to Bloomberg, just like manned aircraft already do. The drones would also need to maintain an internet connection in case they need to receive emergency instructions (i.e. "Thunderstorm ahead. Land now.") as well as obstacle avoidance and sensing systems to keep them from crashing into trees, birds, utility poles or just sideswiping one another.
It's basically a mirror of the current (and exceedingly safe) system employed by the FAA for commercial airliners. What's more, Amazon wants to create a neutral central computer system to handle all of these flight plans and location data that any participating company could freely access. This access would extend from hobbyists flying homebrew quadcopters to tech giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook along a tiered flightpath scheme. "It's completely doable," Gur Kimchi, Amazon's VP of drone delivery, told Bloomberg News. "We think it's something feasible that everyone can rally around."
[Image Credit: Amazon/Associated Press]