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Amazon Approved to Test Drone Deliveries

March 20, 2015
Personal Finance
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A world in which Amazon uses a fleet of drones to buzz between its warehouses and your front porch just got a little closer to reality.

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved Amazon to begin testing drone deliveries, issuing what’s called an experimental airworthiness certificate.

In December 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced Amazon Prime Air, an ambitious plan he said could one day let Amazon make 30-minute deliveries using drone-style “octocopters.”

Bezos originally said he hoped the system could be running by the end of this year, though aviation experts have consistently called that highly optimistic.

According to the FAA certificate issued Thursday, all tests must be conducted at or below 400 feet and during daylight hours and good weather conditions.

The drones must always remain within sight of the pilot and another observer. And the pilot flying the aircraft must have a pilot’s certificate and a recent medical checkup.

Amazon also must give monthly data to the FAA, including the number of flights conducted and news of any unusual hardware or software malfunctions that may occur.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

But, in 2013, Bezos said the drones would have a 10-mile radius, meaning they’re far more likely to roll out one day in population centers close to Amazon warehouses. They’ll initially be able to carry packages up to 5 pounds, which Bezos said is 86% of all Amazon deliveries.

Doug Gross is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow him on Twitter@doug_gross and on Google+.

Image via Amazon.