Amazon gets support for FAA exemption from AUVSI

By Patrick C. Miller | September 04, 2014

The Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI) last week submitted official comments to the U.S. Department of Transportation in support of Amazon’s bid to test its planned UAS delivery service Prime Air.

“Amazon wants to test their systems outdoors in the U.S., opposed to overseas,” AUVSI president and CEO Michael Toscano wrote to the Department of Transportation. “Amazon’s exemption adequately addressed the safety requirements in a number of federal aviation regulations, and there is a compelling need for the FAA to allow Amazon to test their systems to ensure the next evolution in package delivery happens in the U.S. first.”

To accelerate the commercial use of UAS, the FAA announced in May that it would consider granting exemptions for certain low-risk commercial UAS applications. The exemptions would enable some industries to fly before the finalization of the small UAS rule.

Amazon refused to comment on recent news reports that it plans to first test its Prime Air deliveries in India. However, in a July letter to the FAA requesting a UAS testing exemption, Paul Misener, Amazon vice president for global public policy, hinted at the possibility the online retail giant would look overseas.

“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—where our next generation R&D lab and distinguished team of engineers, scientists and aeronautical professionals are located,” Misener wrote.

Toscano wrote in his comments, “Amazon says 86 percent of the products they sell weigh less than five pounds, which will allow them to be used on their small unmanned delivery aircraft. We hope the FAA uses any and all means to allow Amazon to test their systems domestically in a safe and responsible manner.”

AUVSI said that accelerating commercial UAS use will not only help businesses such as Amazon harness the tremendous potential of UAS, but will also help unlock the economic impact and job creation potential of the technology.

In a report issued last year, AUVSI found that the UAS industry is poised to create over 100,000 new jobs and more than $80 billion in economic impact within the first 10 years following the integration of UAS into the national airspace system.

In addition to supporting exemptions for certain low-risk commercial applications, AUVSI has been pressing the FAA to accelerate the pace of its small UAS rulemaking, which has already been delayed several years.

“The commercial UAS industry will not be allowed to fully take off until regulations, not just exemptions, are finalized,” Toscano added. “Troublingly, FAA officials have publicly said the regulations will take at least 16 months after the public comment period ends before it is finalized. That is simply unacceptable.”

Last April, AUVSI and 32 other association representing the manned aviation community, air traffic controller, and future users of UAS, including agriculture groups, realtors, media organizations, and public safety organizations, sent a letter to the FAA strongly encouraging the agency to not only grant exemptions, but also to expedite the public notice and comment for small UAS rulemaking.

The FAA announced that it also will consider regulatory exceptions for other commercial applications including power line inspections and flare stack inspections. AUVSI recently filed comments in support of an exemption request from Yamaha to use UAS for precision agriculture. AUVSI is also supporting seven production companies seeking exemptions to use UAS for filmmaking and movie production.