The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering a request by Amazon for exemptions from certain regulations so that it can use drones to deliver packages.
The FAA published information on Amazon Prime Air’s request on Thursday in the Federal Register. In that notice, the FAA also asked for public comments on the company’s request; comments should be submitted by Aug. 28.
In its petition to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Amazon said that it wanted to operate the drones according to U.S. Federal Aviation Regulations Part 135, which governs commuter and on-demand aircraft operations, with exemptions in several specific areas.
Amazon said the delivery drones would be MK27s — battery-powered, fixed-wing aircraft designed by Amazon and capable of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and wing-borne flight. The drones can carry internal payloads of up to 5 lb (2 kg) and have a range that would allow for a 15 nm (28 km) round trip, Amazon said.
Plans call for the packages to be delivered within 30 minutes after customers place their orders, the company said, adding that initially, drone deliveries would be conducted only during the day and only in low-population areas that have been “thoroughly vetted for proximate airborne operations, obstructions, communications coverage and sensitive overflight areas, and will be subject to FAA approval in the form of a certificate of authorization.”
Among Amazon’s requests is one provision that would allow its drones to operate without an airworthiness certificate. The company said it has applied for a type certificate, but the lengthy approval process is unlikely to be completed before drone deliveries are ready to begin.
Existing rules call for drone operations to be conducted at or below 400 ft above ground level (AGL), but Amazon asked that it be permitted to deviate from those rules “when necessary for safety.”
Other requested exemptions included relief from regulatory provisions that have applied to manned aircraft regarding fuel reserve minimums, required aircraft equipment, record-keeping and qualifications for serving as pilot-in-command.
Amazon said that overall, its package delivery operation would “bring enhanced safety to the national airspace. As with other [drones] over 55 pounds [25 kg] that have been granted exemptions from certain regulations in the public interest, Amazon’s MK27 has reduced weight and proportions when compared to traditional aircraft, will eliminate the risk to passengers and crew and will reduce the risk to persons and property on the ground by carrying no flammable fuel.”