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Amazon looks to gain lift-off for drone delivery testing

Published:Monday | August 25, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Amazon is going on the offensive as it seeks federal approval to test its planned Prime Air drone-delivery system.

You are not likely to get a Prime Air drop on your porch anytime this year, or even next, but the online retailer, which announced plans for drone delivery last December on '60 Minutes', is making moves to spur development.

Amazon recently banded together with several makers of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to create a coalition to speed federal action. And the e-tailer is also buttressing its lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.

"Amazon Prime Air is participating in several groups ... that share Congress' goal of getting small UAVs flying commercially in the United States safely and soon," said Paul Misener, the company's vice-president of global public policy.

Such efforts are needed because the advance of commercial drones covers a swathe of federal agencies including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which governs airspace, and the Federal Communications Commission, with oversight of communications frequencies drones would use. The White House office of science and technology policy also has rules in the works regarding privacy.

uncharted territory

"This is uncharted territory," says Chris Anderson, co-founder of drone maker 3D Robotics. His firm joined Amazon, DJI Innovations and Parrot in founding the coalition. The group aims to represent commercial uses of drones, establish a code of conduct and educate the public about benefits of the technology, he says.

Amazon's interest "lets people realise how big it can be," Anderson says. "They have a well-established presence in Washington and they were able to kick-start the mechanics of this coalition so we could quickly join and get moving."

Drones are coming. The FAA has estimated that as many as 7,500 small, commercial drones may be in use in the US by 2018, assuming regulations are in place. Globally, drone spending is expected to increase from $6.4 billion this year to $11.5 billion annually a decade from now, as projected by aerospace and defense industry research firm the Teal Group.

- USA Today