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Amazon’s delivery drone dream may come true after all

Published Jan 1st, 2014 11:10AM EST
FAA U.S. Drones Tests

The U.S. government this week approved unmanned aircraft tests for six states of the 24 that wanted to be in the program, Reuters reports, with drone testing expected to cover a variety of uses, including Amazon’s proposed Prime Air shipping solution. The FAA’s chosen sites for drone tests include Alaska, New York, North Dakota, Texas, North Carolina and Virginia. Of those, North Dakota has already contacted Amazon to propose testing.

“We said: ‘We’d love to help you bring your vision to fruition,'” Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Authority director Bob Becklund said about the conversation he had with the company, “They said: ‘We’ll keep your number on file,’” he added.

Global spending on drones is expected to double to $11.6 billion by 2013, according to the Teal Group research firm, while The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates that the drone business could create more than 100,000 jobs and contribute more than $80 billion to the U.S. economy over ten years.

However, it’s not going to be smooth flying for Amazon and for anyone interested in developing their U.S. drones program, as there are several privacy and security concerns the FAA will have to address during those tests before companies can begin deploying their unmanned aircraft fleets. Since 2012, 42 states have considered drone restrictions because of privacy and safety concerns, with eight of them passing laws on it, and most states requiring warrants in order for aerial video surveillance to be used in criminal cases.

The FAA will have to develop a written policy on privacy and to address potential safety matters, with the first rules expected to be released in  early 2014. The first test site is estimated to open in six months, with drones expected to be tested in “small civil applications.” Tests will then continue at least until February 2017.

Chris Smith
Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.