Amazon's Drones Will Be as 'Normal as Seeing Mail Trucks'

Retailer reveals progress with drone delivery, asks FAA for permission to test.

ByABC News
July 11, 2014, 1:04 PM

— -- Amazon wants to take its much-hyped fleet of delivery drones on test runs near its Seattle office -- but first the Internet retailer needs permission from regulators.

In a formal request to the Federal Aviation Administration, Amazon's vice president of global public policy Paul Misener wrote that "one day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today."

The plan to use unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver packages was announced by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in December 2013, but the company faces a series of regulatory roadblocks before their vision can become a reality.

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In his July 9 letter, Misener asked officials for permission to take the drones on test runs near Amazon's Seattle office. The company has so far only been able to test the vehicles indoors and in other countries because FAA rules limit commercial use.

"Of course, Amazon would prefer to keep the focus, jobs and investment of this important research and development initiative in the United States by conducting private research and development operations outdoors near Seattle," Misener wrote.

The letter also detailed advancements Amazon has made with its Amazon Prime Air fleet and the company's vision for how the drones would function as part of their delivery model.

The current aerial vehicles being tested can travel at speeds of up to 50 mph. The drones are capable of carrying up to 5 pounds at a time, covering 86 percent of products sold on Amazon, Misener said.

Improvements have also been made in agility, flight duration and with the drones' system of sensors, he said.

Amazon will face regulatory hurdles, but the letter is another sign that the company has continued to press forward with its plan to implement a delivery system to get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.