Amazon drones can now fly farther following FAA approval

Amazon developed a Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) strategy including an onboard detect-and-avoid tech for FAA nod

Amazon drones can now fly farther following FAA approval
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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given Prime Air additional permissions that allow it to operate drones beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS), enabling Amazon to serve more customers via drone and effectively expand and scale its drone delivery operations.

"To obtain this permission, we developed a BVLOS strategy, including an onboard detect-and-avoid technology. We’ve spent years developing, testing, and refining our onboard detect-and-avoid system to ensure our drones can detect and avoid obstacles in the air," says an official release.

The FAA requires that all commercial drone operators are able to maintain a line of sight to their drones until it approves a technology that can safely enable drones to fly beyond visual line of sight. "BVLOS is a term used in aviation to describe flying a drone where the remote pilot can't see it directly with their own eyes. Instead, a remote pilot would rely on instruments or technology to monitor and control the drone at all times."

Amazon submitted crucial engineering information to the FAA, including the onboard detect-and-avoid capabilities, the release added. "This included how our system was designed, how it is operated, how it is maintained, and ultimately how we validated that the system performs to specified requirements. We then conducted flight demonstrations in the presence of FAA inspectors to show our system works in real-world scenarios — we flew in the presence of real planes, helicopters, and a hot air balloon to demonstrate how the drone safely navigated away from each of them. We also provided extensive analysis and test data for our technology that further validated the safety of our system. After reviewing this information and observing the technology in action at our test site, the FAA provided Amazon Prime Air with BVLOS approval."

The new authorisation and new permissions allow Amazon to expand its delivery area in College Station, Texas, the release added. "It means more Amazon customers than ever before will be eligible to choose from thousands of items for drone delivery, including household essentials and beauty and drugstore products. Later this year, drone deliveries will begin integrating into Amazon’s delivery network, meaning drones will deploy from facilities next to our same-day delivery sites, which will provide Amazon customers with faster delivery of an even greater selection of items."

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