Amazon’s FAA designation a win but company still has hurdles to jump until drone delivery a reality, says GlobalData

The FAA’s designation of Amazon Prime Air as an ‘air carrier’ is the latest development in the company’s seven-year drones saga. It paves the way for the company to start drone deliveries within the US and is a major step towards Amazon’s dream of using drones to deliver to customers within 30 minutes of an order being taken – a service that will be welcomed by US consumers, 39% of which said they find delivery by automated devices an appealing concept* in a survey by GlobalData. However, full-scale implementation remains a long way off due to public security and service-related challenges, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Rupantar Guha, Associate Project Manager for Thematic Research at GlobalData, comments: “Amazon’s competitors in this space, Alphabet’s Wing and UPS, already received FAA approval for drone delivery last year and they have not yet been able to implement large-scale services due to concerns such as drones either being stolen or shot down, the impact of weather and flight space restrictions in the vicinity of government facilities. Amazon will face the same brick wall and must address these challenges while also satisfying regulators that it has an efficient service infrastructure if it is to turn its drone dream into a commercial reality.

“Saying that, regulations is the next hurdle. Now FAA approval is in the bag, Amazon must now focus on complying with regulations that aim to ensure public safety in urban areas, prevent collisions and protect public privacy, as well as gain the backing of law enforcement agencies. Amazon has been pursuing regulatory approval for drone deliveries since 2013. It has performed basic trials in the UK and Japan – although these were largely to prove that the technology worked. The restrictions on drone operations beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and the lack of regulations for commercial drone operations in those countries have prevented the launch of drone delivery services. Amazon will now have to wait until the FAA issues regulations for commercial drone operations that take place over crowds.”

*GlobalData 2018 Q4 Survey, based on ‘Somewhat Appealing’ and ‘Very Appealing’ responses

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