LONDON, United Kingdom — Amazon Inc. and the British government have announced a partnership to test the e-commerce giant’s aerial drone parcel delivery system after run-ins over the technology’s use.
Supervised by the UK’s aviation safety regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, the trial will test beyond so-called line-of-sight operations, the drones’ ability to identify and avoid obstacles and the level of operator success in flying multiple drones at once, Amazon said in a statement on Tuesday.
“We want to enable the innovation that arises from the development of drone technology by safely integrating drones into the overall aviation system,” Tim Johnson, policy director at the CAA, said in the statement. “These tests by Amazon will help inform our policy and future approach.”
In April, a UK government official criticised Amazon for not providing guidance about the safe operation of drones to customers. The company responded by saying such information was included on its website. Also that month, a British Airways pilot landing at London’s Heathrow airport reported a drone had struck the airplane, an incident that has not been confirmed, although a number of near-misses in 2015 were acknowledged.
Amazon, which is trying to reduce its dependence on logistics companies such as UPS and FedEx Corp., applauded the UK for allowing drone delivery to move forward. “The UK is charting a path forward for drone technology that will benefit customers, industry and society,” said Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global innovation policy and communications.
The partnership with the UK came a month after the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration finalised the first operational rules for commercial use of drones that require pilots to keep the unmanned aircraft within line of sight.
By Gwen Ackerman; editors: Nate Lanxon and Kristen Schweizer.