Amazon is going to be testing its drones in the UK. These tests will be conducted in both suburban and rural settings. It has the cooperation and permission of the British Government and the Civil Aviation Authority. Amazon will be testing delivery of packages 5 lbs (2.35 kg) or less which makes up 90% of its deliveries worldwide. Amazon has praised the British government as a “world leader in enabling drone innovation”.
The CAA has given Amazon permission to test its drones in the UK without many of the restrictions that usually apply to them. More specifically, Amazon wasn’t able to get these in the US. They had to wait a year just to get Congress to approve rules for testing. And that was after complaining to them about the FAA. Amazon’s drones fly at 400 feet, weight 55 pounds and have a flight range of 10 miles. They are designed to deliver their packages in 30 minutes or less.
The testing will go on in a development center in Cambridge. Tests will be conducted in an area south east of the city according to The Telegraph. Amazon will be testing three key areas.
The first is “operation beyond line of sight”. This will allow Amazon to fly drones without keeping an eye on them continuously to see if they can operate without the ever present attention of a pilot. The second test is for “sense and avoid” technology that allows drones to automatically navigate through obstacles. This goes for moving and stationary objects. So the object could be a tree, a wall or a bird. Planes can be ruled out because the drones will be operating at 400 feet. The final area of testing is one person operating multiple, autonomous drones. This is key for the future when it’ll be possible for one person to operate a fleet of drones.
Dealing With A New Technology
Drones are a relatively new technology to be used for commercial transport or any transport. They’ve gained a bad rap for their use in bombing third world nations but like any technology they can be used for good. Experiments have been conducted to use drones to deliver emergency medical kits to soldiers, food, Amazon packages of course, and people too.
Writing the rule book for drones will prove tricky. People will have to account for noise pollution, individual privacy, danger to wildlife and disturbance to the public. Not to mention the strange sights of drones filling the sky. It might end up looking like a scene from Terminator. Also, what if they malfunction? Will that mean they’ll collide in to people’s walls and windows? It’ll also be tricky to ensure that planes and helicopters don’t collide with drones as they’re taking off or landing.
This program will help governments all over the world write the rule book for drones. Tim Johnson, the UK CAA’s head of policy said “The tests by Amazon will help inform our policy and future approach”.
Amazon has been testing its prototype drones since 2013 for a service called Prime Air. It came out with its second prototype last year.