Amazon can now test its current drone designs, the FAA told the company in a letter this week. The FAA had previously cleared Amazon’s petition from July 2014 to test its drones lat month. Between Amazon asking for this petition and the FAA clearing it, but Amazon’s design had changed quite a bit since it first logged its application, as the company’s VP of global public policy Paul Misener told a Senate committee last month. Now, Amazon is free to test this new design in the U.S., as well.
Sadly, the filing that includes all of the details of Amazon’s home-built drone remains confidential, so it’s unclear what exactly it looks like. All we know is that it stays within the FAA’s rules, which allow the drone to weigh up to 55 pounds, speeds up to 100 miles per hour and flight levels up to 400 feet above ground.
Just like before, though, the drone must always remain within line of sight of the pilot, so any long-distance tests are still not an option for Amazon, but at least it will be able to test how to drop off that package of toothpaste you ordered with Prime Air.
Amazon’s petition for an exception, as well as a number of new licenses the FAA granted this week are among the first that implement a slightly lower license requirement for the drones’ pilots, too. While they previously needed a private pilot license (a requirement that will not carry over once the FAA’s proposed commercial drone rules go into effect), now a recreational or sport pilot license is enough. These licenses carry more restrictions when it comes to flying regular single-engine planes, but are cheaper and easier to get and don’t involve medical exams.