What Amazon Prime Air Could Look Like If Regulators Approve

How Amazon's plan for drone delivery has progressed in past two years.

ByABC News
November 30, 2015, 11:32 AM

— -- Amazon has given its vision what the future could look like with its Prime Air drones delivering packages -- perhaps even those from future Cyber Mondays -- in just 30 minutes.

Despite regulatory hurdles, the retailer is moving full speed ahead with its dream of making delivery drones as common as mail trucks. Amazon over the weekend gave the world a look at one of its newest delivery drone prototypes.

The aerial vehicle can carry packages weighing up to five pounds as they cruise below an altitude of 400 feet to reach their destinations. "Sense and avoid" technology helps the drones steer clear of any potential obstacles while flying their delivery routes, according to a video released by Amazon.

The drones are designed to ascend vertically and fly horizontally. Once they reach their destination, the drones are able to scan for a clear landing spot and descend vertically to drop a package before moving back into the air.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed the company's futuristic plan in December 2013. The retailer has teased delivery could come in the near future. However, no timeline has been set due to the fact Amazon faces regulatory obstacles that could prevent the retailer from ever realizing its dream of drone delivery.

"Prime Air has great potential to enhance the services we already provide to millions of customers by providing rapid parcel delivery that will also increase the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation system," the company said on its website. "Putting Prime Air into service will take some time, but we will deploy when we have the regulatory support needed to realize our vision."

Amazon won a major victory in March when it was cleared for outdoor drone testing by the Federal Aviation Administration. However, the ruling came with a series of restrictions.

The FAA issued an experimental airworthiness certificate to Amazon on Thursday that will allow the company to begin testing its fleet of delivery drones outdoors. Amazon had previously been testing them inside its Washington facility.

Under the ruling, Amazon has been able to fly its drones outside for the purpose of "research and development and crew training." The certificate comes with several strings attached that limit Amazon's full-fledged ambitions.

During tests, the FAA requires the drones to remain within sight of the pilot -- who must also have a minimum of a private pilot's certificate, the agency said.

The drones are also only allowed to fly during the daytime and only in clear weather conditions. The FAA mandates they also have to stay at an altitude of 400 feet or lower.

Amazon is also being held to strict reporting requirements and must send monthly reports to the FAA on the number of flights conducted, how long pilots flew and any malfunctions or deviations from air traffic controllers' instructions.

Paul Misener, vice president of global public policy at Amazon, said in a statement to ABC News earlier this year that the company was "committed to realizing our vision for Prime Air and are prepared to deploy where we have the regulatory support we need."

A number of other companies have also been experimenting with drones as a delivery method, including Walmart and Google.