As of today, Amazon is officially an “air carrier.” The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted Amazon Prime Air the designation, which allows Amazon to begin its first commercial delivery trials in the US, Bloomberg reports. The company will use the hexagon-shaped next-gen hybrid drone it showed off last year.
Amazon has not revealed when or where it will begin its commercial delivery trials, but as Bloomberg points out, it does have test sites in the Northwest and in the nearby Vancouver area. Amazon has also tested drones in the UK. Still, we’re probably a few years away from a commercial drone delivery service. In part because the FAA still needs to define regulations beyond the trial phase.
“This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world,” David Carbon, an Amazon vice president, said in a statement.
Amazon is not the first drone operator to receive FAA approval. Alphabet subsidiary Wing and UPS are also operating FAA-approved trials. In Virginia, Wing is delivering over-the-counter meds, snacks and gifts on behalf of FedEx, Walgreens and a local retailer. UPS is delivering prescriptions for CVS in North Carolina.
Amazon has been openly discussing its drone delivery ambitions for years, but the pandemic may serve as an added push for the company. Amazon has seen a massive uptick on online sales in the past few months -- enough to double its profits last quarter. It has hired more than 100,000 additional workers, but it seems that delivering orders via flying and rolling delivery bots may be another part of its plan to keep up with the added demand.